Preventative measures for women to reduce risk of heart disease, improve mortality outcomes | Health - Hindustan Times

Preventative measures for women to reduce risk of heart disease, improve mortality outcomes

ByZarafshan Shiraz, New Delhi
Jun 14, 2024 01:14 PM IST

Health experts suggest what preventative measures women can take to reduce their risk of heart disease and improve mortality outcomes.

Similar to men, the most typical sign of a heart attack in women is chest pain, pressure or discomfort that either persists for a prolonged period of time or comes and goes. However, especially in women, chest discomfort is not often the most prominent symptom or even the most severe one.

Preventative measures for women to reduce their risk of heart disease, improve mortality outcomes (Image by Shutterstock)
Preventative measures for women to reduce their risk of heart disease, improve mortality outcomes (Image by Shutterstock)

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Rajesh Bhat U, Associate Professor and Senior Interventional Cardiologist at KMC Hospital in Mangalore, shared, “Women frequently report the pain of a heart attack as tightness or pressure. Furthermore, chest pain is not always a sign of a heart attack. Symptoms of a heart attack unrelated to chest pain are more common in women than in males.”

According to him, these symptoms include:

• Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or upper belly (abdomen) discomfort

• Shortness of breath

• Pain in one or both arms

• Nausea or vomiting

• Sweating

• Lightheadedness or dizziness

• Unusual fatigue

• Heartburn (indigestion)

Compared to the intense chest pain that is frequently connected to heart attacks, Dr Rajesh Bhat U revealed that these symptoms could be less evident and more nebulous. He said, “This may be due to the fact that women are more likely than males to have blockages in both their major and minor arteries that feed blood to the heart, a condition known as coronary microvascular disease or small vessel heart disease. Compared with men, women tend to have symptoms more often when resting, or even when asleep emotional stress can play a role in triggering heart attack symptoms in women.”

The cardiac expert added, “Women may receive a heart disease diagnosis less frequently than males because the symptoms of a heart attack can differ in women from men. When there is no significant arterial blockage, women are more likely than males to get a heart attack (non-obstructive coronary artery disease).”

Heart disease treatment in women:

Dr Rajesh Bhat U said, “Treatment for heart disease is generally the same for men and women. Medication, angioplasty and stenting, or coronary bypass surgery are some of the options.” Men and women handle heart disease differently, with some notable differences being:

• Men and women handle heart disease differently, with women being treated less likely than men to avoid future heart attacks by taking statins and aspirin. However, studies show the benefits are similar in both groups.

• Women are less likely than men to have coronary bypass surgery, perhaps because women have less obstructive disease or smaller arteries with more small vessel disease.

• Heart disease recovery and overall health can be enhanced by cardiac rehabilitation. But compared to males, women are less likely to receive a referral for cardiac rehabilitation.

Highlighting that CVD in women is under-recognised and under-treated in clinical practice due to many reasons, Dr Rajesh Bhat U asserted that there is a need for awareness about CVD among women as the natural history of CVD is different in women than in men. He pointed out, “Women are protected from CVD due to estrogen but post menopause the risk is higher than men. Awareness and good diagnostic tools are necessary to evaluate the different aspects & for early detection of CVD in women. Management of risk factors and optimal treatment of underlying conditions can reduce the risk of CVD in women.”

Preventative measures women can take:

Bringing his expertise to the same, Dr Srichandran L, Senior Consultant – Interventional Cardiologist, Department of Cardiology at MGM Healthcare in Chennai, assured, “There are a few proactive steps women can take to safeguard their heart health and enhance their chances of a longer and healthier life. The regular health check-ups are one of the most important for preventing heart conditions These are mainly to blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and analyse overall cardiovascular health.”

He suggested, “A heart-healthy diet is one of the key factors to stay healthy. A healthy diet emphasises on the importance of consuming fruits and vegetables. The limitation of saturated fats, cholesterol, sodium, and added sugars will keep the body physically healthy. Regular exercise is a path-breaking saver of heart disease prevention. Women need to engage in at least 50 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio activities or 25 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity per week.”

Dr Srichandran L concluded, “Physical activity not only helps manage weight but also improves heart function, lowers blood pressure, and boosts overall well-being. Consumption of tobacco and alcohol significantly increase the risk of heart disease or heart attacks. It can also lead in damaging blood cells, increase in blood pressure, decrease in oxygen flow in the body.”

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