What is heart disease?
The most common heart disease is Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), which is one of the leading causes of heart attack. CAD is often interchangeably used with the term heart disease that includes a number of problems primarily affecting the heart and blood vessels. If you are suffering with CAD, it is possible that your arteries become hard and narrow, restricting blood flow to the heart. CAD can manifest as:
- Angina: Angina is a chest pain or discomfort that happens when the heart does not get enough blood. It may feel like a pressing or squeezing pain, often in the chest, but sometimes the pain is in the shoulders, arms, neck, jaw or back. It can also feel like indigestion (upset stomach).
- Heart Attack: A heart attack occurs when an artery is severely or completely blocked and the heart does not get the blood it needs for more than 20 minutes.
- Heart Failure: It occurs when the heart is not able to pump blood through the body as well as it should. This means that other organs of the body do not get enough blood. Signs of heart failure include — shortness of breath, swelling in feet, ankles and legs, extreme tiredness, etc.
- Heart Arrhythmia: It is a change in the beat of the heart. Most people feel dizzy, faint, out of breath or experience chest pain at that time. The changes in heartbeat are harmless for most people. As you get older, you are more likely to have arrhythmia.
Know the Symptoms of heart attack
There can be severe pain in the centre of the chest, which can be mild or strong. It can last for few minutes or can go away and come back each time you exert or are under stress.
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach
- Shortness of breath (feeling like you can’t get enough air). The shortness of breath often occurs before or along with the chest pain or discomfort
- Nausea (feeling sick to your stomach) or vomiting
- Feeling dizzy or woozy
- Breaking out in a cold sweat
Do women need to worry about heart disease?
Yes, most certainly! Although heart disease is often associated with men, more women die of heart disease than men every year. They worry more about the health of family members and don't care about themselves.
What are the risk factors for women?
Although the traditional risk factors for coronary artery disease such as high cholesterol, high BP, diabetes and obesity affect both women and men, other factors may play a bigger role in the development of heart disease in women. For instance:
- Metabolic syndrome: Accumulation of fat around your abdomen, can lead to high BP, high blood sugar and high triglycerides- that has a greater impact on women than men.
- Mental stress: Increasing competition, mental stress, depression can have a greater impact on women’s health than men. When suffering from mental disorders, the whole lifestyle goes for a toss.
- Smoking: Women who are light smokers, for instance, if they smoke only one cigarette a day can double their risk of death. Smoking is a greater risk factor for heart disease in women than men.
- Diabetes: It is possible that women who are less than 60 years and have diabetes, are four times more likely to develop CAD than those who do not have diabetes, thereby putting them at the same risk level as men.
What can women do to reduce their risk of heart disease?
There are several lifestyle changes you can make to reduce the risk:
- Exercise 30-60 minutes everyday
- Maintain a healthy weight and fitness level
- A waist-hip ratio less than 0.85 in women
- A waist circumference less than 88 cm in women
- Quit or don’t start smoking
- Eat a diet; low in saturated fat, cholesterol and salt, and high in fibre, fruit and vegetables
- Worry less and take more care of yourself
Tips: In addition to these, you will need to manage conditions that are risk factors for heart disease, such as
- High BP (keep BP less 130/80)
- High Cholesterol (keep LDL cholesterol <100 mg/dl, Triglycerides less than 130 mg/dl, HDL > 55 mg/dl)
- Diabetes (Keep HbA1c < 7%)
- Do not skip medicines or reduce dose on your own.