Let’s discover if the above statement is a Fact or Fiction
17 December 2018| Last updated on 19 December 2018
Under the impression that breast cancer is the #1 killer of women?
Well, think again! Long gone now are the days when a woman's worry over heart problems centered wholly on its threat to the men of her family.
It`s well known now that it`s no more a man's problem alone. Every year, heart disease, the number 1 cause of death globally, claims men AND women in very close numbers.
A real menace! The heart disease that is seen in women is often not quite the same as heart disease in men. It may be more difficult to diagnose, and many women who have a heart attack do not even know it. It`s not uncommon for women to feel a burning sensation in their upper abdomen, an upset tummy, nausea, sweating, shortness of breath and light-headedness.
Because they may not feel the typical chest pain on the left side (as most men do), many women may take no notice of symptoms that indicate they are having a heart attack. Even worse, a heart attack may actually happen without the woman knowing it. It is called a silent heart attack, or medically known as silent ischemia (lack of oxygen) of the heart muscle.
In a nutshell, heart diseases involve the heart and the blood vessels and the most common of these is the coronary artery disease in which the coronary arteries (the fuel pipes that supply nourishing blood and oxygen to the heart) become damaged or blocked by a process called `atherosclerosis` in which a plaque builds up on the inside of the walls of the arteries. This plaque gradually narrows the arteries, making it harder for blood to flow through.
If a blood clot forms on top, it can stop the blood flow, resulting in a heart attack or stroke. And sometimes, women are liable to suffer a heart attack even without any heart arteries being blocked. This can occur because of `coronary artery spasm` in which an artery of the heart suddenly closes upon itself.
Men and women tend to share common `suspects` for heart disease:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol & triglycerides
- Lack of exercise & sedentary lifestyle
- Positive family history of early heart diseases
Nevertheless, there are certain risk factors that are `unique` to women, and the most common of which are:
- Birth control pills (especially in smoking women)
- Gestational hypertension or “preeclampsia” (significant high blood pressure with pregnancy)
- Gestational diabetes
If you`re a women, then most probably you`re no different from most women all over the world; always prioritizing your family members` interests and so busy taking care of each and everyone, with your own health and wellbeing coming last in row. Easier said than done, you ought to make your heart’s health a priority, something which is also in your family`s best interests.
Listen to your heart, and don`t wait until its health - and your life - is in jeopardy.
The good news is that several factors that impact your risk of developing heart disease are, to a big extent, under your control. Therefore, and regardless of your age, learn about your possible risk(s) for heart disease and what makes it more likely.
By undergoing annual checkup with your Cardiologist, you can be diagnosed and treated for these risk factors before they impact your heart health.
Whatever the risk factors for heart disease you might have, your Cardiologist will perform a physical exam and inquire about your personal and family medical history before doing any investigations which may range from simple blood tests, ECG and chest x-ray up to echocardiogram and treadmill stress test.
You can really help protecting your heart by adopting heart-healthy habits; the most important of which are regular exercising, healthy diet, enough physical rest, avoiding / quitting smoking and paying attention to your health in general.
And if ever you have a nagging feeling that something could be wrong, play it safe…talk to your Cardiologist and don`t just shrug it off!
Authored by Dr. Abhay Pande, MD, FACC, FESC, FSCAI (USA)
- Consultant Cardiologist
- Interventional Cardiology Expert