Cardiovascular diseases affect countless lives globally and is a significant concern that emphasises the importance of prioritising heart health. Regrettably, there persists a common misconception that heart disease primarily affects men, leading to a concerning trend in women disregarding symptoms and neglecting their heart health.
According to statistics from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, cardiovascular disease is the primary reason for more female deaths than all types of cancers combined. Despite these alarming figures, only 44% of women are aware that heart disease poses a major risk to their health. In this article, we shall focus on the importance of women’s heart health and the necessary steps that should be taken for the prevention of heart diseases in women.
What are the common symptoms of heart problems in females?
- Chest pain: Pain or discomfort in the chest is the most common symptom of heart disease in both men and women. However, women are also likely to experience pain or discomfort in their upper back, neck, jaw, throat, or stomach.
- Shortness of breath: Women with heart disease may experience shortness of breath during routine activities or even at rest.
- Fatigue: Constant tiredness and extreme fatigue for no apparent reason, is a symptom associated with heart disease in women.
- Sweating: Most women with heart ailments tend to experience excessive sweating without any physical exertion.
- Nausea or vomiting: Sudden nausea or vomiting with no specific cause is seen as another symptom of heart disease in women.
- High blood pressure: Having high blood pressure raises the likelihood of developing heart disease, stroke, and premature mortality. (source)
Why is it important for women to look after their heart health?
Despite heart disease being one of the leading health concerns for women, it often goes unnoticed and underestimated. While breast cancer receives significant attention, it may come as a surprise that heart disease is actually seven times deadlier. Here’s why it is important for women to take good care of their heart:
1. Empower yourself with knowledge:
Prioritise your heart health as a woman by understanding the unique risks and symptoms associated with heart disease. Keep your blood pressure in check, as uncontrolled blood pressure can lead to kidney failure, heart disease, stroke and even dementia. It’s important to monitor and keep it in check. Do keep in mind to schedule regular check-ups to monitor your heart health and undergo necessary screenings.
2. Nurture your overall well-being:
A healthy heart is the foundation for overall well-being. When you prioritise your heart health, you enhance your vitality, energy levels, and overall quality of life. It enables you to engage fully in daily activities, pursue your passions, and enjoy your life to its fullest potential. Heart disease becomes more prevalent with age, particularly after menopause in women. Post menopause women produce less oestrogen, once it loses the protective function of oestrogen, the susceptibility of health conditions increases. Recognising these risks can help women take proactive measures to protect their heart health.(source)
3. Preventive measures for a long and active life:
By adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle, can help you reduce the risk of developing heart disease and the complications associated with it. Familiarise yourself with your family history of health conditions including age of diagnosis and regularly go for health check-ups. Regular physical exercise, maintaining a balanced diet, managing stress, and reducing consumption of alcohol and tobacco products are suggested steps towards long-term heart health. You can try opting for a healthy diet by including foods, such as whole grains, fruits high in fibre, fatty fish and nuts in your diet. (source)
4. Impact on other aspects of health:
Women undergo many life phases like menarche, pregnancy, lactation, and menopause, which can give rise to many bodily changes. Pregnant women with elevated blood pressure face a twofold increased risk of developing heart disease in the future compared to pregnant women. Women should thus be mindful of their overall health. Heart diseases can often be prevented by making certain lifestyle changes.
5. Be an inspiration for future generations:
By taking care of your heart, you set a positive example for your family, friends, and future generations. Inspire others to prioritise their cardiovascular health by demonstrating the importance of making conscious choices and adopting healthy habits.
What measures can women take to reduce the risks of getting heart disease?
1. Eat a healthy diet:
Women can maintain their heart health by following a well-balanced and nutritious diet. Try to include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein and healthy fats in your diet. Leafy vegetables such as spinach are packed with vitamins A, C and K which help reduce inflammation. Fruits such as guava, aid digestion and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Beans, a great source of plant protein, has several anti-inflammatory benefits and improves overall health. Oatmeal is a good source of vitamins and fibre being good for health. The oil you use to cook your food also plays a crucial role in promoting better heart health and overall well-being. When consumed in moderation and as part of a balanced diet, these healthy fats which have the right balance of MUFA and PUFA, can help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and Total/HDL ratio. This, in turn, can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular conditions. You can include oils such as Saffola Gold in your diet, to keep your heart healthy.
2. Exercise regularly:
Including physical activity in your daily life can lower the risk of heart disease by improving heart health, lowering blood pressure, and maintaining a healthy weight. Alternating between cardio, resistance exercise, yoga, and walking 3-4 times a week which can help you achieve a physically active goal. You can consider resistance exercise, also known as strength training, which involves making your muscles work harder through activities such as lifting weights or using resistance equipment. It improves muscle strength, making everyday tasks and aerobic exercises easier. Aim for two to three sessions per week with adequate rest in between sets. As we age, resistance training becomes especially important for maintaining muscle strength. A simple walk for 20 minutes has also shown to be beneficial for heart health.
3. Manage stress effectively:
As modern women, we often find ourselves wearing multiple hats, from excelling in our careers to caring for our families and maintaining a harmonious household. Balancing these responsibilities can be challenging and sometimes overwhelming, leading to increased stress levels. Chronic stress can increase the risk of heart disease by elevating blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Women should incorporate stress-reducing practices like meditation, yoga, regular physical workouts and breathing exercises to mitigate the impact of stress on heart health.
4. Get enough sleep:
Lack of proper sleep can increase the risk of heart disease by raising blood pressure levels and affecting metabolism. Try to prioritise getting sufficient sleep of seven to nine hours every night to reduce the risk of weight gain and high blood pressure.
To conclude, it is vital that women take good care of their heart health, and not fall for myths that claim heart disease to be a man’s issue. It is a significant concern, and it is necessary to take preventative measures and live a mindful life. Precautionary measures, such as maintaining a healthy diet, regular exercise, and reducing alcohol and tobacco consumption, can go a long way in keeping your heart healthy.