Women rival men, now in heart diseases too

Women rival men, now in heart diseases too

Women rival men, now in heart diseases too

Even today, advertisements by cooking oil brands in India emphasise on ‘women protecting their husbands’ hearts,’ almost as if their own hearts couldn’t be at any risk at all. This best reflects our long-held belief that heart attacks are a ‘men’s problem’ and women are forever safeguarded by the female hormone estrogen.

Unfortunately, newer studies are turning this belief on its head. Recent observations by doctors are confirming that women, in recent times, have developed a risk of heart diseases not just at par with men, but actually more. WHO says that globally, about 8.6 million women die of Cardiovascular Diseases (CVD) every year; of these, 34 per cent are Indian.

Overall, rates of CVD deaths have declined by 30 per cent in the last decade, but rates among women younger than 55 have actually increased. Specifically, more women have died of CVD than men, and more women patients than that of breast cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, Alzheimer’s disease and accidents combined.

Doctors say that awareness on the issue is grossly missing. Dr Aparna Jaiswal, senior consultant electrophysiologist, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute says, “Women, these days, seem to be more concerned about diseases like Breast cancer and Cervical cancer since it affects their sexuality and self-image directly, but attentivenessto heart problems is badly

“The most important factor behind CVD becoming a ‘women’s problem’ lately is the latter adopting men’s lifestyle. Earlier, our mothers and grandmothers used to do a lot of household chores which adequately exercised their heart muscles. Nowadays, women have taken on a sedentary lifestyle like men, leaving them equally vulnerable
to CVDs.”

Unfortunately, it is not just lack of physical exercise, but also the added burden of managing office with home, which is putting women at risk. Dr SK Gupta, senior cardiologist, Indraprastha Apollo hospital, says, “Estrogen does protect a woman’s heart during child-bearing years but it is constantly being negated by stress which today’s women face.”

“Add to that missing meals, fast-food consumption and the pressure to heavily drink and smoke like their male colleagues in office and you have a ready recipe for a heart attack. This is the reason behind even younger women developing CVDs of late.”

Sadly, even educated women behave like illiterates when it comes to going for yearly body scans or check-ups when a symptom presents itself. Dr Aparna says, “We still live with that mindset that the male members of a family are more important and need routine health check-ups while women can do without them.”

“Though women cannot be blamed entirely for this because our bodies are made such that the symptoms are milder and show themselves later than in men. For example, women are far less likely to suffer chest pain like men and would generally complain of shoulder ache, breathing difficulties, sweating and palpitation. This, they dismiss as stress or acidity.”

Therefore, for women, it becomes even more important to have a good nutritious diet and screen for spurt in blood pressure and cholesterol levels. If you have a family history of CVDs, this becomes even more important. “Listen to your body and take a doctor’s advise before it’s too late,”
says Dr Gupta.