Heart is often thought of as a man’s problem but in reality all women are also at risk. According to a survey conducted by the American Heart Association, women worry more about getting breast cancer, although heart disease kills six times as many women each year. It is important that women of all ages should protect their heart health and understand the signs and symptoms of their heart disease and learn the risk factors and take steps for prevention.
Coronary Heart Diseases occur due to plaque build up on the inner walls of the coronary arteries. The arteries carry oxygen-rich blood to the heart. Problems start due to hardening of the plaque which causes narrowing of the coronary arteries which reduce the flow of oxygen rich blood to the heart. This will result into discomfort or chest pain. Usually, the plaque is composed of fat, calcium, cholesterol and other substances which are found in the blood. If this ruptures, a blood clot can form on its surgery. A large blood clot can block the flow of blood through a coronary artery and this is the most common cause of heart attacks in both men and women.
Other types of heart diseases which pose a serious risk for women include broken heart syndrome, coronary microvascular disease, and peripheral arterial disease of the legs.
What are the Risk Factors You Can’t Control?
Some of the risk factors you can’t control to develop the heart diseases include the following:
Age: Age becomes a risk factor for women at 55 since until menopause; the ovaries produce estrogen which protects them against the plaque buildup. At menopause, the ovaries will stop making estrogens and the arteries can get stiff and thicker with age thereby increase the risk of heart diseases in women.
Race and Ethnicity: Ethnic minorities are generally more prone to develop heart disease. African-Americans are more likely to develop high blood pressure.
Family History: Women with a father or brother who developed heart disease before the age 55 are at higher risk of heart disease. Women with their mother or sister who developed heart disease before 65 years are also at higher risk.
Are there any Risk Factors You Can Control?
The older the women gets, the more likely she will develop the heart disease. Although women tend to develop the heart disease about 10 years later than men, but it does not hold true for women with diabetes or having a significant family history of early heart diseases. Post menopause, women will catch up with men with regards to the increased risk for heart diseases.
There are lifestyle changes a woman can make at any age to reduce her risk of heart disease. Following a heart healthy diet: low in saturate fat, salt and cholesterol and getting regular exercises daily wil reduce the risk of heart diseases.
Traditional risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure apply to both men and women. Some of these factors have stronger impact on development of heart diseases in women. Lack of physical activity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, smoking, mental stress and depression affect women’s heart more than men’s. Pregnancy complications can also increase the risk of heart diseases in both mother and her children.
What are the heart attack symptoms in women?
The symptoms may be vague and it can easily go unnoticed by the patients; since in this case, we are not dealing with the blockages in the arteries as in a typical heart attack.
The heart attack symptoms in women include the following:
• Shortness of breath
• Discomfort in the neck, shoulder, jaw, upper back or abdomen
• Nausea or vomiting
• Pain in the right arm
• Unusual fatigue
• Dizziness or lightheadedness
Both women and men are likely to ignore the heart attack symptoms by mistakenly thinking of them as the discomfort which will pass or they will think they would never have a heart attack. Some people are even embarrassed to think, “What if it turns out to be nothing?”. It is suggested to don’t take a chance. If you or a family member experience these symptoms, or you think of the symptoms could be of heart attack then you should visit the emergency care of the nearby hospital.