Over the years, multiple researches have concluded that heart disease impacts men and women differently. It has been noted that in the younger age groups, men are at a far higher risk of heart disease than women; on an average, while the disease strikes men at 65 years of age, women may experience it when they are closer to 72 years.
In recent years, scientists and clinicians have poured over immense amount of data to understand this phenomenon better; as more and more data is being made available, it is observed that predisposing factors have evolved over time and increasing number of women are known to be at a higher risk of Cardio-Vascular diseases as early as in their 40s!
While it has not been certainly established why middle-aged men suffer more heart attacks than women in the same age group, shared risk factors between the two genders includes high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, high cholesterol levels, adoption of sedentary lifestyle, smoking, obesity, and stress, says Dr Satish Jawli, Consultant, Cardio-Thoracic Surgery, Fortis Hospital, Mulund and Kalyan.
“As for women, gender specific diseases like Polycystic Ovary Disease (PCOD), Endometriosis, coupled with pregnancy triggered Diabetes and high blood pressure increases the risk of Heart disease. According to Cleveland Clinic, Endometriosis has been found to raise the risk of developing CAD by 400 percent in women under 40 years of age,” he points out.
Reports also state that the symptoms of heart attack could be different in both genders; women can develop symptoms that are subtler and harder to detect — making it easier to be missed out or ignored. “Symptoms, such as chest pains, which are considered to be classical, apply to both sexes; however, women are much more likely to experience less common symptoms such non-obvious chest discomfort, shortness of breath, indigestion, back pain, etc.”
Another big factor that could lead to missing out on spotting the symptoms early is the common understanding that risk of heart disease only ups after menopause; this is untrue and women must be encouraged to undergo heart-checks every year after the age of 35 years, says the expert.
He says what is of prime importance is to: protect oneself, undergo regular health-checks & highlight any unusual symptoms to your doctor, especially if you are at an early risk.
It’s never too late to lower your risk of suffering cardiac disease; Dr Jawli lists down a few things you could consider in conjunction with your physician:
Maintain within range weight, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels.
Enroll the help of your doctor and a friend to help you lose weight by adopting medically certified methods; if you are obese or overweight — weight management will play a big role.
Exercise on daily basis, a brisk walk for 30 minutes each day is a must.
Quit smoking and alcohol consumption.
Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fish are a must in your diet; avoid consumption of animal products and processed food.
Adopt or pursue a hobby that will keep your stress levels low.
Enroll for Yoga, Aerobics, meditation, or any other class that will help you stay motivated while being on the right path towards health; these will also help you cope with stress.
With the Covid-19 pandemic, heart health of both genders is at stake, and those with cardiac diseases have noted to have had a prolonged and more stressful recovery. So it is even more imperative now to care for oneself and our families, don’t delay, start now — speak to your doctor about managing your heart health.