Oestrogen is a hormone naturally produced in a woman’s body which forms a vital part of regulating her menstrual cycle. It can offer some protection against coronary artery disease therefore reducing the risk of a heart attack.
A new year resolution for every woman should be to prioritise heart health. In recent years, Indian women have shown an increase in cardiovascular diseases. Heart diseases differ from person to person and every individual might not show similar signs of the disease. With the rise of stagnant lifestyle there is an increase of obesity and chronic inflammation, it has elevated the occurrence of heart diseases in women. The conditions aggravate as women reach menopause.
According to the WHO, cardiovascular diseases take the lives of 17.9 million people every year i.e. 32 percent of all global deaths. The global scenario is showing a steep rise in the heart disease cases pertaining to women. The share of women contributing to the heart diseases chart is increasing globally. The global data showed that in 430 million new Cardiovascular disease cases there are 250 million occuring in women. The disease manifestations are slow or silent many times leading to full emergence and incurs huge treatment expenses to the patient. Generation Z is facing increasing heart diseases as compared to the previous generations.
Why does menopause involve significant risk of cardiovascular diseases in women?
Menopause signifies the permanent cessation of ovarian function and women’s transition from a reproductive to a nonreproductive phase of life. It marks a critical stage characterized by remarkable changes in hormonal and menstruation patterns, as well as both physiological and psychosocial symptoms. Oestrogen is a hormone naturally produced in a woman’s body which forms a vital part of regulating her menstrual cycle. It can offer some protection against coronary artery disease therefore reducing the risk of a heart attack. It helps to control women’s cholesterol levels and so reduces the risk of fatty plaques building up inside the artery walls.
As women get older the blood vessels can become stiffer, caused by high blood pressure. This significantly increases risk of heart diseases and stroke. Moreover, type 2 diabetes and chronic inflammation like Rheumatoid Arthritis adds to the risk factors. All these risk factors increase coronary arteries narrowing and developing circulatory failures and stroke.
Men vs. Women heart disease symptoms may show similarity or differ significantly. Men may report symptoms ranging from chest pain, palpitations in the chest, shortness of breath, dizziness and nausea. Women may show similar warning signs or it can be hard to spot as sometimes they are non-existent. The warning signs may take time to develop or they may be fatal once developed, that’s why it’s important to take every possible measure to live a heart-friendly lifestyle.
Factors that increase heart disease risk
- autoimmune disease
- high blood pressure (Family history)
- high cholesterol
- early menopause (before age 45)
- family history (Both parents suffered heart attack before age 55, or single parent suffered heart attack)
- physical inactivity
- poor diet
- pregnancy-related hypertensive disorders and gestational diabetes
Some important WARNING SIGNS not to miss are as follows:
- unusual fatigue for several days, or sudden in onset
- sleep disturbances
- shortness of breath/ breathlessness
- palpitations and increase in heart rate
- light-headedness, nausea, or a cold sweat
- indigestion or gas-like pain
- pain in one or both arms, pain that goes to the neck, jaw, or back
- pressure in the center of your chest that may spread to your arm
The most important step towards heart care is self-monitoring- Know your numbers on a routine basis. Cholesterol, blood pressure and blood glucose levels are crucial to know the risk level.
Guidelines suggest people aim for an LDL (bad) cholesterol level of less than 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), blood pressure below 120/80 millimetres of mercury, and fasting glucose levels less than 100 mg/dL. But these are just recommendations. Your ideal numbers may differ based on your health and individual goals, as determined in consultation with your doctor
Regular exercises like walking and climbing stairs can work to lower risk. Controlling weight is the cornerstone of disease management. Reducing belly fat drastically reduces heart diseases.
The 3 Pillars of Good Health
Diet, Exercise and Sleep.
With correct measures and right eating habits, women can lower risks of cardiovascular diseases. Chronic stress is also a long term physical and mental health issue that needs attention. Stress causes an increase in heart rate and high blood pressure causing pressure in the circulatory system. Anxiety and prolonged depression can make it challenging to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle. Pregnancy related health risks and complications like high blood pressure (preeclampsia) and elevated blood sugar (gestational diabetes) increase chances of developing heart disease.
Regular exercises like walking and climbing stairs can work to lower risk. Controlling weight is the cornerstone of disease management. Reducing belly fat drastically reduces heart diseases. Exercise can help reduce bad cholesterol levels. Quitting smoking and alcohol can lower the risk of developing heart complications.
Women with obesity issues should prefer a low-saturated, high fiber, high plant food diet. Food sources of saturated fats include animal products, meat fat, and processed foods should be avoided. Restrict intake of dietary salt. Fruits, whole grains and vegetables should be increased in diet.
Today’s sedentary lifestyle, stress, work life balance issues, staying awake late night due to work or regularly binge watching can cost you sleep and heart health at large. Embrace a healthy lifestyle with daily exercise, a balanced diet and regular sleep cycles.
What role Innovation and Technology has to play in cardiac care?
It’s a dream for everyone to keep heart function intact. The anatomy and physiology of the human heart with its normal rhythm, rate, function is dependent on care for as long as possible. Along with traditional preventive tools in heart care, emergent digital technologies would go a long way to counter stroke, heart failure or other major risks. AI backed digital sensors; digital twins will further strengthen the fight against cardiovascular diseases.
The AI-automated calcium scoring software for cardiac CT scans help colour coding of vessel segments. AI Algorithms are developed to detect arrhythmias and send alerts using sensors or smart phones.The cardiac monitoring technologies along with wearable gadgets and smart apps can see its biggest leap forward in cardiac care.
Robots are revolutionising heart care in every possible way. Right from minimally invasive surgeries to low infection rates post-surgery, robotics has been explored in heart care and surgery. Artificial heart promises for total heart failure cases. The emergence of a ventricular assist device (VAD) has revolutionized the care of patients with advanced heart failure. A bridge to transplantation, the VAD has shown to prolong life when the donor heart is difficult to reach.
With advances in science and technology, humans are exploring new frontiers to combat heart diseases.
Health is wealth that you have to earn. In its simplest remedy, try to maintain regulated sleep-wake cycles. Stay active and harness the power of a balanced diet. With awareness and the right approach, even heart diseases can be defeated.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the article belong to the author. Wherever required references are given to support views.)
Composed by: “Dr. Madhumita Mandal is a passionate Healthcare Consultant, Health Coach and EI Mentor. She had worked in the healthcare domain in various verticals and even contributed to academics and research. She strongly advocates healthy practices to bring awareness about health, nutrition, mental health, fitness and lifestyle diseases. In her spare time, she loves to write fiction for both adults and children.”