Women are at as much risk of developing heart diseases as men, senior interventional cardiologist of Apollo Hospitals Tripti Deb says, adding that heart diseases and related risk factors are overlooked in women.
Women, on many occasions, do not have a “classic” picture of a heart attack, meaning severe, or crushing pain in the chest region, she avers. The symptoms, she says, include only dizziness, weakness, vomiting or very intense fatigue. “These are very vague symptoms. This is because their arteries are involved in a different way, anatomically. The pathophysiology of a heart attack in a woman is different. Sometimes, in heart attack patients, we see normal coronaries, without blockages which is known as MINOCA — myocardial infraction with no obstruction in coronaries. That is more common in women,” Dr. Deb says.
She suggests awareness that women run an equal, if not a higher, risk of having a heart attack is essential to avoid heart diseases. The importance of timely check-ups cannot be overstated. “Early check-ups are important; check-ups for high blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes. Then, a general check-up for anaemia is needed. It is also important to know if they have a family history,” Dr. Deb points out.
Some factors other than age, alcohol consumption and family history are included in risk factors for both men and women, while other risk factors play a more significant role in leading to heart diseases. These include diabetes, mental stress and depression, and pregnancy-related complications. On many occasions, pressures of the household and other factors lead some women to put their own health on the back burner.
Dr. Deb says women from lesser privileged backgrounds face a higher risk since they are unlikely to go for more check-ups. Lower access to risk profiling adds to the problem.
She adds that women can take certain measures to reduce the risk of heart diseases — consulting doctors about the risk vis-a-vis risk factors, opting for a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy body mass index, controlling blood sugar levels, being active and giving oneself “me time”, monitoring blood pressure during pregnancy and saying no to smoking and staying away from alcohol.