Women and Heart Disease

It is generally considered that heart disease affects men more than women. However, coronary heart disease is a leading cause of death for both men and women, though the symptoms may be different for both. According to research, cardiovascular disease accounts for 1 in every 3 deaths around the world.

Women and men experience heart disease differently due to the differences in the respective cardiovascular system. For example, women have smaller heart chambers and blood vessels than men. They have lesser number of red blood cells and cannot take in as much oxygen as men. Sudden drop in blood pressure and fainting are more likely in women.

Oestrogen and progesterone hormones are dominant in women, while in men it is the testosterone hormone. These also impact heart health differently.

Identification of heart disease in women

In women symptoms of cardiovascular disease are generally noticed much later than in men. The most common symptom is chest pain or angina which may feel like heaviness, pressure, aching, numbness, squeezing, etc. 

Other symptoms usually observed include fatigue, breathlessness, heart palpitations, nausea, sudden sweating, etc. Anxiety, loss of appetite, frequent indigestion, intense headache and discomfort in the jaws or teeth, are other warning signs of a possible heart attack.

Women are also at higher risk for having a silent heart attack, that is an attack without any visible symptoms.

Hence, it is very essential to get medical help whenever any unusual symptoms are noticed to prevent the chances of heart attack.

Risk factors for heart disease in women

While risk factors like high cholesterol and high blood pressure affect both men and women, women face certain unique risks that affect them more. These include the following:

  • Obesity: During menopause women face greater risk of obesity and gaining abdominal fat which puts them at higher risk of heart disease.
  • High cholesterol: In women aged 65 and above, low level of HDL or good cholesterol is closely linked with death, more than in men.
  • Diabetes: Women with diabetes have a much greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease than men with diabetes.
  • Hypertension: Hypertension or high blood pressure has been found to be linked more closely with heart attacks in women than in men.
  • Family history: Instances of early heart disease in the family cause greater risk to women than men.  

Reducing the risk of heart disease

According to Dr. Ramji Mehrotra, it is very important to adopt a healthy lifestyle in order to reduce the risk of heart disease. A healthy diet with whole grains, vegetables and fruits must be consumed. Saturated fats and high amounts of salt and sugar must be avoided to maintain good health.

Regular exercise is a must, especially for women who are overweight, in order to reduce the risk of heart disease. Stress must be kept under control with meditation and yoga, as high levels of stress have been found to cause microvascular disease.

In addition, other health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol should be managed by regular consultations with the medical practitioners.

By following the above guidelines, heart disease can be prevented in women and they can lead healthy lives.

Heart Attacks Are Becoming Common In Young People

Heart attacks, which were once called “old man’s disease”, are now occurring more frequently in younger people including women. It is increasing in people in the 20’s to 40’s age group. Presently, 1 out of every 5 heart attack patients is under the age of 40 years.

Hence, it is very important to take the required steps to protect one’s health and prevent cardiovascular disease and heart attacks.

Causes for Early Heart Attack

There are several factors that lead to heart attacks in young people. Generally, a heart attack results from a combination of factors and not just any one factor.

  • Diabetes: Diabetes is a key risk factor that can lead to blockages in coronary arteries which can cause an early heart attack. Adults with diabetes are 2 to 4 times more likely to be affected by heart disease than those without diabetes. High blood sugar can damage the blood vessels and increase the build-up of fats in the arteries thereby causing atherosclerosis.
  • Hypertension: Another major risk factor for cardiovascular disease is hypertension or high blood pressure. The occurrence of hypertension is increasing at a faster rate in the younger population than in the older people.
  • Obesity: Being obese or overweight can also increase the risk of heart attack. Excess weight not only puts a lot of strain on the heart but can lead to other health complications like diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol which affect heart health.
  • Stress and anxiety: Stress levels are increasing rapidly in today’s youth due to various reasons. Healthy ways of dealing with stress and anxiety such as proper sleep and relaxation of the mind are not being adopted. Chronic stress is not good for the body and can lead to hypertension and obesity which affect the heart health.
  • Sedentary lifestyle: Decreased physical activity coupled with a sedentary lifestyle also leads to an increase in cardiovascular diseases in young people. Sometimes too much of exercise is also not good for the heart. Excessive exercise, in cases where there is a per-existing un-diagnosed heart condition, can lead to a heart attack.
  • Unhealthy dietary habits: Unhealthy eating is on the rise among the young population.  Consumption of saturated and trans fats, found in deep-fried and oily foods, increases the risk of heart disease and other health problems. Taking a variety of health supplements without medical advice is also harmful and can lead to health issues.

Tips for Preventing Heart Attack in Young People

Dr. Ramji Mehrotra recommends that it is important to be physically active by exercising for at least 30 minutes every day. Cardio exercises such as brisk walking, jogging, cycling and swimming keep the heart in good shape. Yoga and meditation are also very helpful in reducing stress and anxiety levels.

Smoking as well as alcohol and tobacco consumption must be stopped completely. Salt intake must be reduced in the diet while nutritious food including fresh vegetables, fruit and whole grains must be consumed regularly.

If a person has high blood pressure, cholesterol or diabetes, it is essential to keep them under control by consulting a doctor regularly.

By adopting all the above suggestions, the incidence of heart attack in young people can be minimized, according to Dr. Mehrotra.

How Depression and Heart Disease are interlinked?

Depression and heart disease are two widespread diseases observed among the general public today. They often occur simultaneously within the same person. Many patients have been affected by depression after a heart attack, though they had no prior history of depression. Similarly, people with depression have been observed to develop heart diseases at a higher rate than normal persons.

It is natural for a patient to feel sad or depressed temporarily after a heart attack or cardiac surgery. The feelings of sadness generally go away after a few weeks as the patients adjust to a normal routine after recovery. However, if the depressed mood persists for a longer duration along with other symptoms it is necessary to take treatment.

Factors leading to depression

Depression is a medical illness that negatively affects how a patient feels, thinks, and behaves. It is caused by a combination of many factors like genetic, environmental, and psychological. Some of the major symptoms of depression include:

  • Feelings of sadness and hopelessness
  • Irritability over small matters
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Tiredness and lack of energy
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss
  • Anxiety and restlessness
  • Trouble in thinking, concentrating, and remembering

However, with proper diagnosis and treatment, it is possible to recover from depression and lead a normal life. Over a period of time, it can help to improve the patient’s overall health and decrease the risk of heart disease.

Effect of depression in patients with CVDs

Studies have shown that around 15 percent of patients with cardiovascular diseases experience depression. If not managed properly stress can lead to high blood pressure, damage to arteries and irregular heart rhythms. It can also increase adrenergic drive and other humoral changes  which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease. In many cases, depression leads to negative lifestyle habits like smoking, consumption of alcohol and poor diet, all of which could interfere with the heart disease treatment.

According to Dr Ramji Mehrotra, in patients with heart disease if depression is left untreated, it because of reasons enumerated above can increase the risk of heart attack and blood clots. 

Managing depression and heart disease

It is very important to take the right steps for managing depression and consequently reduce the risk of heart disease. Some of the lifestyle changes that can help to manage both depression and heart disease include:

  • Consume healthy foods: A balanced diet improves the health of the heart and reduces the risk of heart disease.
  • Regular exercise: Exercise helps significantly in improving the health of people with depression. It also improves heart health.
  • Avoid alcohol: Alcohol is a depressant and lowers the serotonin levels in the brain thereby causing depression to worsen. It can also increase the blood pressure and increase the risk of heart attack or stroke.
  • Quit smoking: Many depressed people take up smoking which is a major risk factor in developing heart disease. By not smoking the chances of developing heart disease can be lowered significantly.

A few other techniques to lower stress levels and prevent depression include:

  • Doing meditation and deep breathing exercises
  • Using visualization and recollecting positive memories
  • Getting adequate sleep and rest
  • Sharing feelings with others or writing them down

Conclusion

Dr. Mehrotra says that early detection of depression and treatment are crucial to not only improve a patient’s quality of life but also reduce the probability of heart disease. If not treated in time, depression can increase the risk of a heart attack. Patients with depression should not be stigmatized and must be helped to recover by providing them with the right treatment and support.