“One of the most beautiful things in this world is a woman’s heart
Its fragile, yet strong, delicate, yet resilient.
When a woman gives you, her heart, she gives her most prized possession.
If you love, nurture, cherish and protect it,
She will give you the world.”
Thus, it is very important for women to take care of the very precious organ in our body.
Traditionally, known as the month of lovers and all things related to heart, February also reminds us to take care of our heart. It is American Heart Month.
It is often thought that heart disease affects and causes death in men, however the most common cause of death for both men and women is Heart Disease. The difference is, the symptoms present differently in women compared to men. Women are more likely than men to have heart attack symptoms unrelated to chest pain, such as:
- Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort.
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in one or both arms
- Nausea or vomiting
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Unusual fatigue
Heart disease risk factors for women
- Diabetes. Women with diabetes are at greater risk of heart disease than are men with diabetes.
- Mental stress and depression. Women’s hearts are affected by stress and depression more than men’s
- In women, smoking is a greater risk factor for heart disease in women than it is in men.
- A lack of physical activity is a major risk factor for heart disease, and some research has found women to be more inactive than men.
- Menopause. Low levels of estrogen after menopause pose a significant risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease in the smaller blood vessels (coronary microvascular disease).
- Certain chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapy for cancer. Some chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapies, such as those used to treat breast cancer, may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Pregnancy complications.High blood pressure or diabetes during pregnancy can increase women’s long-term risk of high blood pressure and diabetes and increase the risk of development of heart disease in the mothers.
How to reduce the risk of heart disease in women?
It is very important for women to stay healthy and exercise irrespective of their age. Eating healthy boosts overall metabolism and promotes good mental health. Eating a healthy diet encompasses whole grains, a variety of fruits and vegetables, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, and lean meats. Avoid saturated or trans-fat, added sugars, and high amounts of salt.
The Department of Health and Human Services recommends 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity, 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity. That’s about 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
Guidelines from the American Heart Association (AHA) urge women to be more aggressive about cutting their cardiovascular disease risk. For some women, this includes a daily aspirin. But, the routine use of daily aspirin therapy to prevent heart disease in low-risk women younger than 65 years old isn’t recommended. However, one should always remember that aspirin at any dose should not be taken without seeing a doctor.
All women face the threat of heart disease. But becoming aware of symptoms and risks unique to women, as well as eating a heart-healthy diet and exercising, can help protect one and all.
By Nandini Chattopadhyay, M.D.