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Myths of Women’s heart attacks busted

Overview 

Cardiovascular disease (all types of diseases that involve the heart or blood vessels,atrial fibrillation including coronary heart disease that causes a heart attack) is generally attributed to men, but that is not true. In fact, a heart attack is the number one cause of death in women in India and the risk is eight times more compared to breast cancer.

Although it is true that women are at lesser risk of getting a heart attack, it is only before their menopause. Estrogen, one of two main female sex hormones produced in women, protects their hearts, delaying the risk of a heart attack by 10-15 years later, compared to men.

Let’s burst a few myths about women and heart disease.  

Myth 1Heart disease is for men

Fact: This common perception is attributed to many established research bodies that have shown that heart disease is more common among men (any age). However, recent studies report an alarming trend. There has been a consistent increase in the mortality rate of young women due to heart disease, as per these more recent studies. Therefore, now the risk of heart disease is, in fact, the same and even more in women compared to men.

Myth 2:  Heart disease affects only for older women.

Fact:   No! In fact, heart disease can occur in women of all age groups, even in those who are in their 30-40s. For instance, sudden cardiac death of women in 30s and 40s) is increasing much sooner compared to men in the same age group. Heart disease is 20 and 30 years is quite common particularly if certain habits co-exist like smoking while taking birth control pills – a fatal combination that puts woman, a particularly young woman, at a greater risk for potential heart disease. It is also known that pregnancy complications, such as pre-eclampsia, are strongly linked to a potential heart attack.  In addition, as a woman approaches her menopause, her risks of heart disease increase two-fold than men.

Myth 3:  Most deaths of women are from cancer.

Fact:  In India, a heart attack is the number one leading cause of death in women. The risk is eight times more compared to breast cancer. In fact, there will be more deaths of women due to heart disease than all forms of cancers combined.

Myth 4: Only men are affected by traditional risk factors

Fact: Women smokers are more vulnerable. They have over three times of increased risk of heart attack compared to women who do not smoke, while men have a two-fold risk. In addition, research studies point out that high blood pressure was linked to more than 80 percent raised risk in women than men. And, women with type 1 diabetes have a higher risk of heart attack, almost thrice as compared to men. For women with type 2 diabetes, the risk is 47 percent higher.

Myth 5: Heart disease does not affect women who are fit

Fact: Even if you are a fitness freak, you cannot completely get rid of your risk for heart disease. Your lifestyle, eating habits, smoking and other factors like cholesterol can offset your other healthy habits like workouts. You can be fit and thin but have high cholesterol. You have to get your cholesterol checked at 20 years, or earlier if you are from a family with a history of heart disease. In addition, keep checking your blood pressure too. A comprehensive heart health checkup or a complete Heart Healthy Package from a good healthcare provider may help you understand your risks better.

Myth 6: If you do not have a family history of heart attack, it will not affect you.

Fact: Many women have had a heart attack or suffered other heart problems without any family history. However, the chances of developing heart disease are higher in women with family history – if close relative like mother/sister had a heart attack before 65 years of age, or if a father/brother had one before age 55 years.  

Myth 7: I have a Family History, so I cannot do anything about it.

Fact: Although it is true that a woman with family history is at a greater risk of heart disease, there is a lot a woman can do to prevent and reduce the risk. Knowing the signs and making healthy choices have saved thousands of women from heart disease. You need to change your lifestyle and create a heart healthy action plan.

Myth 8:   You cannot stop heart disease.

Fact:   In fact, you can! Experts say that about 80 percent of heart diseases are preventable. You can reduce your risk of heart disease drastically if you have the right information. Ask the right to your doctor online, and prepare an action plan for a heart-healthy life. Make heart-smart modifications to your lifestyle  

Conclusion

So, women are as susceptible to the menace of heart disease as men. It is also difficult to interpret heart disease in women through diagnostic tests as the most common diagnostic test like TMT is very nonspecific in women. Other means of diagnosis for heart diseases are either cumbersome or expensive so most of the females and their families shy away from those tests which result in unexpected casualties. This is another drawback of being women and living with heart disease. 

Knowing the signs and making lifestyle changes can surely help. Take action now! Enroll in our comprehensive HealthyHeart Program to keep your heart healthy.

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Verified By Dr Tripti Deb
MD, DNB, FACC, FICRF, FESC, Senior Interventional - Cardiologist, Apollo Hospitals, Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad
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