Coronary artery disease (CAD) occurs when fatty deposits build up plague inside the arteries making them clogged and narrowed, restricting blood flow to the heart. Without adequate blood, the heart becomes starved of oxygen and vital nutrients, which leads to serious heart problems.
According to Dr. Sumera Nasim, Consultant Cardiologist at AKUH, coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease. The number of women dying of CAD is twice, as compared to the rest of the diseases.
"Combined with hypertension, stroke, and other fatal diseases; one of every two women die each year due to cardiovascular condition. Women are less likely than men to survive a heart attack. But the survivors have higher rates of repeat attacks that may end up in deaths," explains Dr. Sumera.
"In addition to abnormal cholesterol, a woman is more likely to develop heart disease if she has diabetes, blood pressure, family history of heart disease, premature menopause (before the age 38, either naturally or through removal of the ovaries) or if she is overweight and has a sedentary lifestyle. Women have heart attacks later in life than men because oestrogen protects them until menopause," informs Dr. Sumera.
She also highlights the differences between men's and women's heart disease, in terms of symptoms and intensity, which the public and health care providers are often unaware of. Gender differences extend beyond mortality to patterns of illness, metabolism, disease processes, and therapy responses.
Heart attacks or their aftermath tend to be more deadly in women. About one-quarter more women than men die within a year of having a heart attack. This difference may stem from women generally being older than men when they suffer heart attacks (their older age makes them more likely to have other illnesses that hamper survival). Also, women do not respond to the treatments as well as men do. These treatments include coronary angioplasty too.
Not getting enough exercise also adds to the risk of developing heart problems. It is clear that high blood pressure is a major risk factor for developing a heart disease and for some people; constant stress contributes in developing high blood pressure. "It is important for you to identify the things that cause stress and find out ways to cope up with the stressful situations. Regular exercise especially yoga can help you to release your stress. When you feel stressed, stop whatever you are doing and take some deep breaths," advises Dr. Sumera.
About the worldwide scenario she says, "Stroke is a leading cause of serious, long-term disability; 15 to 30 per cent of stroke survivors are permanently disabled. One out of every three women under the age of 40 will eventually develop a heart disease. More than 450,000 women of all ages died from various heart diseases in 2005 - that is 11 times more than those who died of breast cancer."
Recognising the symptoms:
"In women, the signs of a heart attack can be very different from men. Instead of crushing chest pain, you may have lighter chest, stomach, or abdominal pain, nausea or dizziness, heart palpitations, fatigue and weakness. Women ought to be careful of what they're calling 'indigestion'. They should not ignore these symptoms whenever they experience them," informs Dr. Sumera.
She urges the women to be careful regarding chest pains and its appropriate evaluation. These may help to reverse the trend of late referral and intervention.
Research indicates that behavioural changes on the part of women and reshaping of practice patterns by their health care providers may dramatically reduce the number of women disabled and killed by heart diseases each year.
Diet and exercise:
Women who have survived heart attacks are advised to redesign their diet plan. A low-fat diet is appropriate for most women. They can improve their diet by using lots of fruits and vegetables. Women with high vitamin E consumption are at a lower risk of heart diseases. Using olive oil or canola oil instead of vegetable oil can be beneficial too. It is also essential for women to exercise regularly and walking can be very helpful. Women who walk three miles a day, five days a week decrease their risk of heart disease.