Heart disease (also known as cardiovascular disease) is commonly seen as a “man’s illness,” however it is the top cause of death in women in the world, killing more women than other malignancies combined. Although, women and men are affected differently by heart disease, which includes heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure. The symptoms are also not the same. According to studies, women who have a heart attack or stroke have more subtle symptoms than males. Knowing the signs that are specific to you might help you lower your risk. Before we learn about heart disease symptoms and reduce the risk, let us first know what heart diseases are.
Any disorder that affects the heart. High blood pressure, coronary artery disease, valvular heart disease, stroke, and arrhythmias are all examples of cardiovascular disease (irregular heartbeat). Cardiovascular disease kills more than 17 million people worldwide each year, according to the World Health Organization. The most prevalent form of cardiovascular illness, coronary artery disease, is the leading cause of mortality in the United States today. Cancer is the second leading cause of mortality, accounting for slightly more than half of all fatalities.
Risk factors of heart disease
There are two types of risk factors of heart disease: significant and contributory. The presence of substantial risk factors has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. The greater the number of risk factors, the more likely you are to get heart disease. Some risk factors are changeable, treatable, or adaptable, while others are not. However, you may lower your risk of heart disease by reducing as many risk factors as possible through lifestyle changes, medications, or both.
The significant factors are:
- High blood pressure (Hypertension): High blood pressure raises your chances of developing heart disease, having a heart attack, or having a stroke. Obesity, smoking or having high blood cholesterol levels along with high blood pressure all raise your risk of heart disease or stroke.
- High blood cholesterol: High blood cholesterol is one of the leading causes of heart disease. Cholesterol is a fat-like substance found in your body’s cells and transported in your blood. Your body’s cholesterol requires to create cell membranes and to create some hormones produced entirely by your liver. When you eat items from animals (meats, eggs, and dairy products) or are heavy in saturated fat, more cholesterol enters your body. Plaque forms on artery walls when there is too much low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad cholesterol”) in the circulation, causing atherosclerosis. You’re more likely to have a heart attack if plaque builds up in the coronary arteries that feed blood to the heart.
- Diabetes: Heart disease is the primary cause of mortality among people with diabetes, particularly those with adult-onset or Type 2 diabetes (also known as non-insulin-dependent diabetes). If you have diabetes, you should already be under the supervision of a doctor because effective blood sugar management can lower your risk. If you suspect you have diabetes but are unsure, make an appointment with your doctor for tests.
The others are obesity and overweight, smoking, age, physical inactivity.
The contributory factors are:
- Stress: Stress is considered a contributing risk factor for heart disease. The effects of emotional stress, behavior habits, and socioeconomic status on the risk of heart disease and heart attack are still being studied. Stress raises your heart rate and blood pressure, which increases your heart’s oxygen demand. This increased demand for oxygen can cause ischemia (a lack of oxygen-rich blood reaching the tissues) or angina (chest discomfort) (chest pain).
- Sex hormones: Heart disease appears to be influenced by sex hormones. Heart disease is uncommon in women under the age of 40. However, the odds of a woman having a heart attack grow dramatically between 40 and 65, which is when most women go through menopause. Women account for over half of all heart attacks beyond the age of 65.
- Birth control pills: Birth control tablets with high estrogen and progestin levels were linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, particularly in women over 35 who smoked. However, modern birth control tablets have considerably lower hormone levels and are deemed safe for women under 35 who do not smoke or have high blood pressure.
Warning signals of a heart attack for women
Although some women will have chest discomfort symptoms, the majority of women will not. On the other hand, women are more likely to have a unique combination of heart attack symptoms.
A heart attack is commonly depicted in the media as crushing chest agony. During a heart attack, however, only approximately 60% of women suffer chest pain or discomfort. Women are more prone to have the following symptoms:
- Shortness of breath.
- Sudden back, arm, or jaw pain.
- Profuse sweating.
- Unusual tiredness.
Contact a doctor or get any medical help as soon as possible if you feel any of these symptoms.
How to keep a healthy heart
There are many ways a woman can keep a healthy heart; here are some:
- Maintain a balanced diet: Limit saturated fats, high-sodium diets, and added sweets. Consume a variety of fruits, veggies, and whole grains. The DASH diet is an example of an eating plan that can help you lower your blood pressure and cholesterol (DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). It is an eating plan based on research studies sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI); these two factors can reduce your heart disease risk.
- Exercise: Almost all women may get the benefits of increasing their physical activity. People must also increase exercise in both frequency and intensity. The FITT tool, which helps women construct an accurate definition for the Frequency, Intensity, Timing, and Type of activity, is one tool women may use to plan more physical activity. Women should aim to spend at least 150 minutes per week in moderate-intensity activities after they’ve chosen them.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Obesity or being overweight might raise your risk of heart disease. This is primarily due to their association with other heart disease risk factors such as high blood cholesterol, triglyceride levels, high blood pressure, and diabetes. These dangers can be reduced if you maintain a healthy weight.
- Keep your blood pressure in check: Heart disease is caused by high blood pressure, a crucial risk factor. It’s critical to have your blood pressure tested regularly – at least once a year for most individuals, and much more frequently if you have high blood pressure. Take actions to avoid or control high blood pressure, including making lifestyle changes.
- Ensure a good cholesterol and triglyceride level: Cholesterol levels that are too high can block arteries, increasing your risk of coronary artery disease and heart stroke. Cholesterol can be reduced by a combination of lifestyle modifications and medications (if necessary). Triglycerides are a form of fat found in the bloodstream. High triglyceride levels can also increase the risk of coronary heart disease, particularly in women.