Earlier, women of 55 years and above were more at risk of heart attack due to the onset of menopause and the depletion of estrogen hormone (which seems to lend a fair amount of protection against bad cholesterol and heart disease). However, recent studies show that younger women in the age group of 35-54 years are also equally vulnerable, because the risk factors are also manifesting at an earlier age due to various reasons including stress-inducing, hectic and unhealthy lifestyles.
It is important to note that women are more likely to suffer silent heart attacks than men, wherein there may be no apparent symptoms associated with a heart attack. That women are less likely to survive their first heart attack, as compared to men, is a matter of vital concern. It has been observed by experts that women are more prone to blockages in the small vessels. Heart disease and heart attack remain less diagnosed in time among women to prevent damage, simply because of the failure to associate their symptoms with traditional symptoms associated with heart attack in men.
- Family history of heart attack, especially among parents or siblings;
- Overweight or obesity is a risk factor for diabetes, high cholesterol, unhealthy lifestyle habits, stress and vice versa;
- Pre-existing disorders like pre-eclampsia (raised levels of blood pressure during pregnancy and childbirth), raised levels of blood pressure due to usage of birth control pills (contraceptive pills increase the risk of blood clotting), diabetes and PCOD (polycystic ovarian disease);
- Unhealthy lifestyle habits like lack of adequate physical exercise and an unbalanced, fat-rich diet which is poor in nutrition;
- Excess alcohol intake;
Contact your doctor immediately if you experience one or more of the following symptoms, as these symptoms could be warning you of urgent attention towards a heart emergency. As silent heart attacks are more common among women, be alert and mindful of them, especially if there is a prevalence of one or more risk factors in your case:
- Dull or sharp pain, constriction or discomfort in the chest area (Angina), arms, neck, jaw, upper back and even upper abdomen;
- Breathlessness, shortness of breath or rapid breathing without hectic physical activity;
- Irregular or uneven heartbeat (arrhythmia), fluttering sensation in the chest area or palpitations;
- Skin pallor;
- Sweating without reason;
- Nausea and/or vomiting;
- Heartburn and indigestion;
- Extreme fatigue;
- Feeling unreasonably anxious or having a panic attack.
Prevention is certainly better than cure. Adopting a healthy lifestyle is of vital importance. Here are some helpful tips:
- If you’re a smoker, quit today.
- Manage your weight. Follow a regimented diet and exercise plan and avoid a sedentary lifestyle completely. Do remember that there is no other healthy substitute for weight loss except a balanced diet and exercise, so get active and shed the excess weight from your waist!
- Get adequate exercise. Go for a regular brisk walks of 30-45 minutes at least 3-4 times a week. Even breaking them into 10- minute sessions during the course of a day has the same effect. This will not only help burn calories and keep weight under control, but also act as a mood-uplifter and help keep stress at bay.
- Take a healthy, balanced, low-fat diet: increase the intake of fresh leafy vegetables, fruits, fiber, multi grains, lean meats, fish, low-fat dairy products and nuts, and cut back on salt and sugar.
- Limit alcohol intake (1-2 drinks) to just once a week if you’re a regular daily drinker.
- Go for regular annual tests for heart disease screening, even if you do not have existing risk factors like family history, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and high stress levels.
- Get adequate sleep.
- Do not skip your medication.
- Take up a hobby to keep up your spirits.
Tests for screening heart disease
- Blood tests:
- Lipid profile
- Thyroid profile
- CRP (HS)
- Lipoprotein (a)
- Plasma ceramides
- Troponin T
- Natriuretic peptides
- Radiological tests
- CT scan
- Cardiac stress test
- Holter test
- Coronary angiogram