Cardiovascular diseases are leading cause of death in women where heart disease symptoms in women can be subtle and differ from men. Though incidence in men is 3-4 times higher, women form the majority of patients with CVD and on an average, CVD develops 10 years later in women but mortality rate is higher in women (51% versus 42%).

Watch out for these unique risk factors for heart disease in women (Image by msgrowth on Freepik)

CVD differs from men in few ways such as presentation, risk factors and treatment strategies and response to it. In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Srichandran L, Senior Consultant – Interventional Cardiologist, Department of Cardiology at MGM Healthcare in Chennai, revealed, “While chest pain is common, women might experience neck, jaw, or upper back discomfort, shortness of breath, arm pain, nausea, sweating, dizziness, fatigue, or heartburn. Due to smaller artery blockages, they may have non-cardiac pain symptoms and might experience symptoms more often when resting or under stress.”

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Bringing his expertise to the same, Dr Rajesh Bhat U, Associate Professor and Senior Interventional Cardiologist at KMC Hospital in Mangalore, said, “Both men and women are at risk for coronary artery disease due to a number of conventional factors, including obesity, high blood pressure and excessive cholesterol. However, there’s a chance that other factors contribute more to the development of heart disease in women. Some female specific risk factors play a role in development of CVD. Reproductive, hormonal and pregnancy related factors dispose to endothelial dysfunction (damage to inner layer of blood vessels).”

According to him, these include –

  • Genetic predisposition.
  • Early/late menarche
  • Migraine during teens
  • Reproductive disorders during adolescence
  • PCOD
  • Early menopause
  • Presence of other disease such as rheumatic arthritis, thyroid disorders which are more common in women.

Asserting that it is vital to seek immediate medical help if experiencing heart attack symptoms, Dr Srichandran L said, “Risk factors for women include diabetes, emotional stress, smoking, inactivity, menopause, pregnancy complications, family history, and inflammatory diseases. Lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, healthy eating, regular exercise, stress management, limiting alcohol, and following treatment plans are crucial. Additionally, home remedies such as herbal teas like green tea or hibiscus tea, relaxation techniques including deep breathing exercises or progressive muscle relaxation, and dietary supplements like omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil can support heart health. Self-care practices like meditation, Yoga, regular physical activity, and ensuring adequate sleep can also reduce stress and improve overall well-being, contributing to heart disease prevention.”

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