It has always been understood that heart disease is a men’s problem however the statistics suggest otherwise. The risk of heart disease in women is higher as compared to men. In the united states, it has been observed that out of 4 women, 1 is having heart-related disorders.
Considering the roots of our patriarchal society, women are always referred to be involved in household activities while men took care of energy-intensive activities. This distribution of work increases the risk of heart disease in women. However, the recent trends have been changed and so that our lifestyle and eating habits.
We are converging towards the point in which we are mostly dependent upon the labor reducing inventions and on the other hand, we are consuming a high-calorie diet. In short, we are adapting to a positive calorie environment which is the major cause of heart disease among people.
Women are the main victim of this contemporary change in lifestyle and can result in severe heart disorders. Some of the heart disease symptoms may be similar in men and women however some of the symptoms are unique to women and can only be surfaced after serious heart condition.
What is heart disease?
Heart disease (1, 2, 3) may be defined as the aggregate of several health conditions which may not only affect the health of the heart but may also impact vascular health. In severe cases, it may lead to strokes and peripheral artery damage. It may change the physical structure of the valves and may cause several health conditions such as rheumatic heart disease and cardiomyopathy.
What are the unique heart conditions for Women?
Heart disease has several health conditions. Some of the health conditions unique to women include:
- Coronary Microvascular Disease (MVD): A heart condition that affects the heart’s tiny arteries
- Broken Heart Syndrome: Extreme emotional stress leading to severe but often short-term heart muscle failure
What are the heart disease symptoms in women?
The heart disease symptoms (4, 5, 6) such as chest pain, pressure, or some sort of discomfort that lasts for few minutes are the same for both men and women. However, the most noticeable thing is that women don’t always complain about chest pain, but they encounter some sort of heart attack.
The observation made it very clear that heart attacks may not have any symptoms in women as compared to men. Some of the heart disease symptoms unique to women include:
- Abdominal Discomfort
- Neck, jaw, shoulder & upper back discomfort
- Pain in one or both arms
- Shortness of breath
- Vomiting and nausea
- Unexplained fatigue
These symptoms are not very noticeable like excruciating chest pain which might be due to blockage in smaller arteries besides main arteries.
What are heart disease risk factors?
There are several risk factors for heart diseases. Here we have tried to cover some of the risk factors which may lead to a heart attack in women.
Smoking (5, 6, 8, 10) is the major cause of heart disease and it has a greater impact on women above the age of 35 than men. Smokers are more likely to have four times higher risk of getting heart disease than non-smokers. Smoking may raise the risk of heart disease by the following means:
- Smoking may lead to blood thickening and even blood clot in the extreme case
- Nicotine is known to increases blood pressure and may damage the heart
- It may damage the walls of blood vessels
The longer you smoke, the more vulnerable you are.
Our social and cultural framework is such a way that it offers less flexibility for women in terms of physical activity. The risk of heart disease is higher in the physically less active women
On average, a woman should get at least 30 minutes of daily physical activities to avoid the risk of heart disease.
Emotional upsetting may also trigger a heart attack and the risk is even greater if you have other habits such as smoking & drinking, insufficient physical exercise, and unhealthy food habits.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure or hypertension (5, 6,7, 10) raises the risk of heart disease. In this condition, blood exerts immense pressure on the artery wall and if it continues for a longer period it may damage your heart.
The condition of high blood pressure may be in the family and which increases the risk of heart disease if you have an unhealthy lifestyle.
The condition of high blood pressure is high in African-American women in the united states and have a higher risk of heart disease. It is mainly caused by excessive body weight or obesity along with limited physical activities.
Diabetes (5, 6,7, 10) not only increase the risk of heart disease but also reduces the probability of survival in case of a heart attack. This condition is similar for men and women. However, the condition of heart disease due to diabetes has significantly reduced in men overtime on contrary to women.
The risk of diabetic women is higher which can be attributed to the presence of extra fat around the waist. This condition is very much true for postmenopausal women.
Age & Menopausal
At younger age (5, 6, 9, 10) our arteries are flexible and allow smooth flow of blood however, as we age, our artery walls get stiffer and thicker which reduces the flow of blood. It is often caused by the sedimentation in arteries and the process is known as Atherosclerosis.
The onset of heart disease is in women is delayed by 10 years and it occurs post-menopausal. This unique phenomenon is caused by the release of estrogen during menstruation which gives women some protection against heart disease.
Race & Ethnicity
Race and ethnicity (6, 9, 10) play important role in the onset of heart disease in women. Gen is the major factor in determining the risk factor of heart disease. As per the studies, African-American and American-Indian women have a high risk of heart disease compared to Asian-American women. However, heart disease remains the number one killer across race and ethnicity.
This is mainly because the said women are prone to high blood pressure, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, overweight, unhealthy food habits, and limited physical activities.
There are varieties of ways to which may increase the risk of heart disease in women. But it is mainly governed by unhealthy food habits and lifestyle and to some extent by race and ethnicity. We have mentioned some of the risk factors which increase the risk of heart disease and must be avoided to prevent heart disease. In addition to these factors, it may also be caused by other factors. In case of any discomfort, it’s advisable to consult a cardiologist. “Stay Healthy, Stay Happy”.