Facts about heart disease in women you should know
Real threat of heart disease:
Did you know that as a woman you face the very real threat of heart disease? If you have been assuming that it is something that happens only to men and that as a woman you are immune from getting a heart attack think again. The fact is that women are as likely as men to have a heart attack at any time. There are some facts about heart disease in women.
The disturbing news is that heart disease is a woman's greatest health threat. A woman is more likely to die from a heart attack than any other condition. Heart disease is more deadly for women than all the cancers put together. So breast cancer is not enemy no 1 for women. Heart disease is.
Greater risk in women:
Though high cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity affect both women and men, other factors play a bigger role in the development of heart disease in women. For instance, having diabetes, leading a sedentary lifestyle, taking birth control pills and smoking all create a greater risk in women. Being menopausal is again an added risk factor because of the declining levels of oestrogen (which is known to protect the heart).
Women are in general more prone to stress and depression and that in itself can create a bigger risk for the development of heart disease. There is also a condition called broken heart syndrome caused by extreme stress or grief which causes temporary heart muscle failure especially in women. The condition is also called stress cardiomyopathy or Takotsubo cardiomyopathy.
Added to all these risk factors is pregnancy itself. If diabetes or high blood pressure develops during pregnancy it can increase the risk of getting heart disease in the future. Then again as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis are common in women these inflammatory diseases too increase the likelihood of heart diseases in women. Women who are being treated for breast cancer with chemotherapy and/ or radiation also run a greater risk of developing heart disease.
Symptoms of heart disease in women:
Another point to be noted is that the symptoms of heart disease in women can be quite different from those in men. Men usually suffer an extreme, crushing pain in the chest when they are having a heart attack. In women, on the other hand, the symptoms can often be so subtle as to be missed altogether. There can be some type of pain, pressure or discomfort in the chest but this is usually not severe enough to warrant attention. Sometimes, there is no pain at all, called a silent heart attack.
A heart attack supposedly comes on after exertion but in women symptoms may occur when they are resting or sleeping. There may be no warning signs and an attack may just creep in quietly. There could just be a feeling of uneasiness, dizziness, light headedness, nausea and vomiting. There could be shortness of breath, sweating or a feeling of extreme tiredness. Pain if any, could be felt as a discomfort, pressure or tightness in the neck, jaw, upper back, abdomen or in one or both arms. It is thus easy to see how a diagnosis of a heart attack can be missed altogether.
Ignoring the symptoms affects the recovery and chances:
Women usually don't take their symptoms seriously and often seek help late after their heart muscle has already been damaged. This also affects their recovery and chances of survival. It is therefore important for women to be vigilant and call emergency medical services if there is the least suspicion of a heart attack.