New Delhi: In India, urban women are more at risk of heart disease today than they were three years ago. The reasons for this include an unhealthy lifestyle characterized by a predominantly high trans-fat, sugar and salt diet, inadequate physical exercise, increased stress levels, dependence on addictive and extremely harmful substances like alcohol and cigarettes amongst others. The largest group of women at risk of CVD are aged 35-44. CVD risk is as high amongst housewives as it is amongst working professionals. As far as risk factors for CVD are concerned, low HDL and high BMI are the two most common contributors to CVD risk setting in as early as 35 years for women.
“Important differences between women and men in the presentation of heart disease make it more difficult to establish a diagnosis in women. For instance heart disease in women generally presents 10 years later than men and with greater risk factor burden. Women are also less likely than men to have typical angina and have a higher false positive rate in the treadmill test.
The symptoms women face are also different than those faced by men”, said Padma Shri Awardee Dr A Marthanda Pillai National President and Padma Shri Awardee Dr. KK Aggarwal, President Heart Care Foundation of India and Honorary Sec Gen IMA.
It is a fact that women are more likely to present initially with chest pain than a more clearly defined event such as heart attack. Many cases of heart attack in women also go unrecognized. In addition to this small vessel disease is more common in women than in men.
The established risk factors of heart disease in women include the presence of history of heart blockages; age over 55 years; high LDL (bad cholesterol) or low HDL (good cholesterol) , diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure, peripheral artery disease or family history of heart disease.
Risk factors, which are more potent in women than in men include regular consumption of tobacco which causes 50% of all coronary events in women; obesity and diabetes.
Following are the ways in which women can prevent future heart disease
· Moderate intensity physical activity for at least 30 minutes and for 60 to 90 minutes for weight management on most days of the week
· Avoidance and cessation of cigarette smoking and passive smoking
· Keep waist circumference less than 35 inches
· Consume a heart-friendly diet
· Presence of high triglyceride levels. One should add Omega 3 fatty acids to diet.
· Control cholesterol level, high blood pressure and diabetes
· Women who smoke should avoid oral contraceptive pills.
· Aspirin 80 mg in more than 65 years of age should be added
· Treat underlying depression.
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