More worrying is that it is affecting more women in the reproductive age group

A survey has found that found that low levels of oestrogen, due to changing lifestyle and other co-morbid conditions, is among the top five reasons for younger women developing cardiovascular diseases (CVDs).

The survey, Visualising the Extent of Heart Disease in Indian Women (VEDNA), mapping the trends of cardiovascular diseases among women and conducted among 577 cardiologists from across the country, has revealed that 54 per cent of the doctors observed a 16 to 20 per cent rise in CVDs among women in the last five years. An estimated 65 per cent of the doctors surveyed also revealed that they had found low level of oestrogen to be one of the main causes for younger women developing heart diseases. Of the 577 doctors surveyed, 44 were from Bangalore. The survey was conducted by Heal Foundation.

Releasing the findings at a press conference earlier in the week, C.N. Manjunath, director of Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, said that heart disease was catching up with young women these days.

“In the last decade, the incidence of heart attack among women is steadily rising. The most worrying factor is that it is affecting more women in the reproductive age group now, unlike in the past when women got it mostly after menopause,” he said. “The main reason for this is extreme stress caused by juggling home and the workplace.

This, coupled with risk factors such as higher prevalence of diabetes, obesity and related ailments and physical inactivity, has only added to the problem.” The survey found that 54 per cent of cardiologists observed a 16 per cent to 20 per cent of overall growth rate in cardiovascular diseases among women in the last five years.

Greater ignorance

Among other findings, 83 per cent of the doctors believed that Indian women are ignorant about heart diseases, while 76 per cent observed that women die due to late presentation to the hospital; 66 per cent cited that CVD death amongst women was due to late diagnosis. “Women are less likely to consult a doctor even if they experience any discomfort in the chest. Even when they do, they are only looking for symptomatic relief and usually do not continue with the proper medication, thus falling short on compliance,” Dr. Manjunath said.

The contradiction

The survey also revealed a striking contrast between working and non-working women in terms of awareness and risk factors.

While 81 per cent of the doctors believed that working women are more conscious about their heart health, a majority of the doctors still noted that heart diseases are on the rise in working women.

“This apart, these days more women are taking hormone pills (contraception and menstrual pills) and painkillers for pains and aches (related to arthritis and obesity). Prolonged intake of these medicines can cause clotting of blood in the arteries,” he explained.