Heart disease isn’t just a single disease but refers to a group of conditions that affect the heart and its surrounding blood vessels. The most common type of heart disease is coronary heart disease (CAD), which is characterized by the clogging and subsequent narrowing of the arteries surrounding the heart. Cholesterol deposits (called plaque) are the main culprit of said blockage and narrowing. As you can imagine, the plaque inside such narrowed arteries can partially or wholly block blood flow to the heart.
Some other types of heart disease are as follows:
- Peripheral artery disease, where the blockages occur in the blood vessels of the limbs
- Arrhythmia, which refers to the irregular beating of the heart
- Valvular heart disease, characterized by problems with the heart’s muscles or valves
- Congestive heart failure, where the heart fails to pump and relax properly
Heart disease is the #1 cause of death in women in the United States. It claims more lives in a year than breast cancer. Such a killer among us surely deserves your attention. In this article, we’ll be providing an overview of heart disease and how it particularly affects women.
A woman with heart disease may or may not show any symptoms until an emergency, like a heart attack, occurs. However, some symptoms may appear early like the ones below:
- Sharp, or dull and heavy chest pain (called angina)
- Pain in the neck, jaw, or throat
- Pain in the upper abdomen or back
Other symptoms of heart disease are as follows:
- Difficulty breathing
- Swelling in the legs, feet, or ankles
Now that you’re aware of the symptoms, let’s have a look at the risk factors of heart disease.
The key risk factors for heart disease are high blood pressure, high LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, and smoking. Some other factors that can put you at a higher risk of heart disease are as follows:
- Lack of exercise
- Unhealthy diet
- High alcohol intake
- Chronic stress
- Inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis
Now that you’re aware of the risk factors, let’s take a look at how you can reduce your risk of contracting heart disease.
How can I reduce my risk of contracting heart disease?
To lower your risk of contracting heart disease, adhere to the following:
- Quit smoking if you If you don’t, then don’t start.
- Become aware of your blood pressure. If it’s high, work with your doctor to lower it to healthy
- Get your blood sugar tested if you think you’re at risk of Untreated diabetes increases your chances of contracting heart disease.
- Get your cholesterol and triglyceride levels checked. A high LDL cholesterol level puts you at
- Limit your alcohol intake. Talk to your doctor about recommendations.
- Cut down on junk food and trans fats. Adopt a healthy, nutrient-rich diet. Such a diet is rich in whole grains, nuts and seeds, leafy greens, fruits, and
- Exercise regularly, preferably 30 minutes a day for at least 3 days a
- Manage stress by adopting stress reduction strategies like meditation, yoga, gratitude journaling,
If you’re concerned about your risk for heart disease, make an appointment with a cardiologist as soon as possible. Although it can be deadly, heart disease is preventable.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women around the world. Although symptoms may not be clear at first, if you take note of early signs, you can prevent contracting this deadly condition. If you feel you’re at risk, talk to a doctor sooner than later.
Dr. Anupama Hegde | Senior Consultant – Cardiology – Adult | M S Ramaiah Narayana Heart Centre, M S Ramaiah Nagar, Bangalore