One for the lady's heart

One for the lady's heart


One for the lady's heart

It is a fallacy that women are not as prone to heart diseases as men are, particularly in today’s lifestyle, writes Dr Pradeep Nambiar.

Research shows that there are an estimated 45 million patients of coronary artery disease in India. It has been further found out that coronary artery disease has increased by leaps and bounds in women. The established standard notion that women are protected from heart diseases and that they require higher risk factors for disease development no more holds relevance.

According to statistics, the mortality rate among women suffering from cardiovascular diseases is also higher than that of men across the world, including India. The main reason behind the increased mortality rate in women is the changes in lifestyle in metropolitan cities. In big cities, women have extra pressure of earning money along with taking care of their homes. Long work hours, combined with smoking and drinking to deal with the stress of personal and professional life, has become the main reason behind the heart ailments. One of the most disturbing facts was that arteries of Indian women are narrower as compared to men. Hence, they are more vulnerable to coronary diseases.

According to the data collected during a study conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine in India in May 2008, out of 33,000 deceased women, those who had smoked, died or suffered from heart or lung-related respiratory, vascular or neo-plastic diseases.

The study also showed that the trend of smoking among women between 30 and 69 years in India rose steadily from three percent to six percent over the decades. Previous studies have associated smoking with reduction in median survival of eight years for women, compared to six years for men in the country.

 The major causes of coronary diseases among Indian women are diabetes, high cholesterol level or dyslipidemia, smoking, bad metabolism and premature menopause or estrogen deficiency. It has been proven that diabetes takes away the so-called ‘female advantage’, or the natural protection present in women of child bearing age. High blood pressure affects men and women equally. Data collected during the Inter Heart Study proved that abdominal obesity, increased waist-hip ratio and high levels of cholesterol are more common in women with heart disease.

In cases of two or more arteries being blocked, heart bypass surgery is the best option. In heart bypass surgery, a new piece of blood vessel is sewed to bridge over (bypass) the blockage.

Many new innovations are taking place in the medical world and one such innovation is “minimal access surgery or key-hole surgery”. In this technique, bypass operation is done with just 2-3 inch cut on the left side of the chest, whereas conventional bypass surgery is done through cutting the middle bone of the chest. Also, no other cut is made in the body for taking graft (veins/arteries for grafting) unlike conventional technique, in which doctors take veins from both the legs and arteries from arms for most of the cases of multiple grafts. The arteries used are called internal mammary arteries which are inside the chest and last 25-30 years unlike leg veins which last only 10-12 years. Therefore, the patient may not require any other intervention ever thereafter. Another advantage of this technique is that the patient recovery is very fast and (s)he can get back to his/her normal work in almost 10 days time after operation. Chances of infection are lesser to with this new technique.

But as they say, prevention is better than cure. The most important among them is physical and mental fitness. There are many ways to stay fit and avoid any kind of heart ailments. 30 minutes of brisk walking daily along with at least 15 minutes yoga and another 15 minutes of meditation can do wonders for your overall mental, emotional, and physical health. Needless to point out, healthy food intake is of utmost importance.

Restrict junk food both in terms of quantity and regularity. A pizza consumed once in a month is perhaps okay, but binging on fried chips everyday is certainly not okay, given the sedentary lifestyle we lead these days.

The number of times we give this advice has made it sound cliche, but it’s a classic: eat healthy, exercise regularly, lead an active lifestyle. That is the only way to a healthy and happy heart, the only way to a healthy and happy you.

(The writer is a senior consultant in cardiothoracic surgery)