WOMEN AND HEART DISEASE

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Heart Disease is the narrowing or blocking of the coronary arteries, the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart. This is Coronary artery disease and it happens very slowly over time. Men are more likely to get Coronary artery disease and other heart related diseases. While it is true that women are still not as badly affected as men, heart disease is certainly not a strictly male province. Today, heart disease is the leading cause of death of American Women. More than 366,000 women in America die every year of heart disease. In UK, almost one in six women dies of heart disease.

Many doctors, who as late as in the 1980s did not even really believe that women developed heart disease, still over look uniquely women heart disease risks, sometimes even to the point of misdiagnosing or dismissing women’s heart attacks while they are happening.

Two widely believed myths persist that only men have heart disease and that women are at risk only in old age. The truth is that at least 1.2 million women live with heart disease and this figure is rising. One may even be surprised to learn that more than 20,000 women under the age of 65 have heart attacks each year. And while heart attack rates for men are falling, rates for women are on the rise. Death rates from heart attack are generally declining but they are declining at a slower rate for women than for men.

Women play down their own risk. Menopause is a defining moment for women and Heart Disease. Before menopause, a woman’s naturally high oestrogen levels protect her heart. After the menopause, women have higher cholesterol levels, which may increase their risk of heart disease, especially if their level of triglycerides which is another type of fat particle in the blood is raised too. In general, women who have high levels of triglycerides (over 3.0mmol/l) and low HDL ‘Good Cholesterol’ (under 1.2mmol/l) have greater risks for heart disease than do men with similar levels. 

The causes of heart disease are different for women. For example, Type 2 Diabetes increases heart disease risk more in women than in men. Women who smoke are twice as likely to have heart attacks as male smokers. Depression is also a stronger heart risk factor for women than it is for men. 

Women have risk factors that men don’t face. Taking contraceptive pills is one example. High blood pressure is two or three times more common in women who take oral contraceptives – especially in those who are overweight. Also, women whose blood pressure rise during pregnancy and returns to normal after delivery are more likely to have high blood pressure and heart disease later in life. 

The simplest truth to get rid of heart disease in women is to gain more understanding of one’s own heart risk. Then in easy terms, eat wisely, take exercise, climb stairs instead of lifts and elevators, reduce stress, be aware of fluctuations in body weight, waist measurements, cholesterol levels and blood pressure. This is a good advice for women with heart disease.

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