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Women: Ensure you are heart healthy

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Clinical Directorate

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Women: Ensure you are heart healthy

The fact that the heart of a woman is electrically wired differently from men should come as no surprise. The development of every part of the body is determined genetically, and modified by the sex hormones. The heart works through an electrical system that we can measure on the surface with the ECG.

WOMEN HAVE A FASTER BASELINE HEART RATE THAN MEN

On an average, women tend to have a faster baseline heart rate than men. This difference is seen in girls, as young as five years old.

WOMEN’S ECG READINGS MAY BE DIFFERENT

Women are more likely than men to be seriously affected by either congenital or acquired QT (a segment in ECG) prolongation which puts them at an increased risk of drug-induced torsades de pointes (a life threatening arrhythmia).

Caution to be used in women when prescribing drugs such as antibiotics, antifungals, antidepressants, anticonvulsants and antiarrhythmics that can precipitate QT prolongation as a side effect. It is not unusual to find congenital long QT syndrome as a cause of syncope and sudden death in young women.

DIFFERENCES IN ABNORMAL HEART RHYTHMS IN MEN AND WOMEN

Delayed or missed diagnosis of an arrhythmia is a significant problem for women. Often, symptoms can be mistaken for other conditions including panic, stress and anxiety, and are usually not evaluated as cardiac problems.

PSVT

A rapid heart rate that originates from upper chamber of heart is more commonly seen in women, completely curable but commonly “missed” diagnosis.

SINUS NODE DYSFUNCTION

A slow heart rhythm that originates once the main pacemaker of heart becomes diseased, more commonly seen in women but often diagnosed late.

SUDDEN CARDIAC DEATH (SCD)

It is a sudden, unexpected death caused by loss of heart function. SCD occurs almost as frequently in women as men and is related to about 4,00,000 deaths per year in women worldwide.

The majority of SCD in women was related to an abnormality of the heart rhythm (88 per cent). This reinforces the need for careful screening of heart disease risk factors in women and managing these concerns even without symptoms being present.