What Indian women must know about heart diseases?

Women should be concerned about heart diseases as it is the leading cause of deaths in women in India. Indian women have never taken heart problems seriously. As per statistics, 1 in 30 women die of breast cancer, but 1 in 3 women die of heart disease. The most shocking revelation is that more than half of the heart diseases are identified only after sudden cardiac death. According to cardiologists, heart disease in women is detected ten years later when compared to men because it gains strength after menopause.

Indians are far more vulnerable to coronary artery disease as compared to people of other ethnic origins. Presently, India is in the midst of coronary artery disease epidemic in which urban Indians are four times higher risk of coronary artery disease as compared to Americans. In the last three decades, coronary artery disease cases have dropped in the West but in India they have doubled and there are no signs of them reducing yet.

In India, average age of first heart attack has diminished by 20 years. More than half of heart attacks in Indians today occur at the age of 50 and one-fourth below the age of 40. This early onset of coronary artery disease is mainly because of genetic vulnerability. Approximately one-third of the Indians have high levels of Lipoprotein (a) due to poor diet, lacklustre lifestyle, stress and lack of physical activities.

Differentiating women from men 

Studies have shown that women often show signs of angina but less hindrance in the coronary arteries. This is the primary factor why it’s difficult to identify blocked arteries in angiography. Plus, close to 40% of women may not experience chest pain during a heart attack, but on the contrary may encounter breathlessness and severe weakness. The pain during a heart attack may be in back or shoulders and not in the arm as commonly seen.

If you are diabetic, the risk of getting a heart attack goes up to three times more than women with no medical condition. If a woman has high blood pressure during pregnancy or polycystic ovary disease, the risk of getting a heart attack goes up manifold. Women smokers are six times likelier to suffer from a heart attack compared to three times in men. In women, low levels of good cholesterol and high levels of triglycerides are more predictive of heart disease.

How to reduce the risk of heart disease?

The only way to lower the risk of heart disease in women is to follow a four step rule – eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, avoid smoking and maintain a healthy weight.

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