If you often repeat the statement “I can’t have heart trouble, I am a woman” to yourself in case of chest pain, you certainly aren’t alone. But you certainly can be wrong.
The number of women who attribute symptoms of chest discomfort or pain to asthma, gas or indigestion and land up on my operating table after suffering a needless heart attack is just not funny.
SYMPTOMS OF HEART DISEASE, ESPECIALLY FOR WOMEN
A chest pain can be an early sign of an impending major heart attack. The classic chest pain – called angina pectoris – is a squeezing pain that starts in the centre of the chest and can radiate to the shoulders, left arm, face or back.
However, the body’s message may not always be clear.
About one-third of all heart-attack patients feel no muscle pain at all. Angina may be replaced by a dull ache in the chest, a ‘heart-burn’ or acid reflux, a vice like pressure in the chest, pain in a tooth, profuse sweating, nausea, light headedness, fainting, palpitation or unexplained anxiety or no sensation at all – the so-called silent attack.
Women are more likely to have signs and symptoms unrelated to chest pain, such as: neck, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort; shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, sweating, lightheadedness or dizziness, and unusual fatigue.
You are at risk for heart disease if you smoke, are overweight, diabetic, have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, a family history of heart disease, are not active, under stress, post-menopausal, and have more than a 35-inch waist.
PREVENTING A HEART ATTACK:
Women must be checked for these factors:
Diabetes: Can be easily detected by a blood test.
Weight: Every extra kilo increases the risk of a heart attack. You should stick to a sensible diet and avoid deep fried food, fats, rich desserts and red meat. Use tandoor, microwave and non-stick frying pans to reduce the use of oils in cooking. Steaming, boiling, poaching, baking and barbeque your food will help.
Blood pressure: Even mild to moderate hypertension increases the risk of heart disease. Please remember that high blood pressure’s treatment could be lifelong. Do not stop anti-hypertension medicines just because you ‘feel better’, do consult a doctor.
Cholesterol: The aim is to have low levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol, LDL, and high levels of the ‘good’ cholesterol, HDL. The best way to do is to eat sensibly and exercise regularly. If that fails, your doctor may prescribe you some drugs called statins.
Stress: The best way to battle stress is by managing your time well, doing yoga, meditation, exercise or finding an interesting hobby.
Smoking: Tobacco use has grown among women. Smoking is the worst. Quit it at the earliest.
Sedentary lifestyle: Regular exercise is a must. Make sure it is something you enjoy.
Walk up stairs rather than taking the lift.
Thus, it is apparent that a number of risk factors can quite easily be controlled with regular checkups, exercise, proper diet, lifestyle changes and medication, if required. If the disease progresses, see a doctor and insist on a complete cardiac checkup. On International Women’s Day, resolve to make yourself ‘Heart Smart’!