“Your aunt has died of a heart attack”, is the only thing I remember as I picked up the phone in one ring. These words still echo in my ears, and I get goosebumps thinking of that day. Within a few days of this incident, I heard that a school friend’s mother passed away due to a heart attack. And you know what was common in both cases? Their heart condition was undiagnosed. That’s why it is essential to be aware of certain facts about heart problems in women, so that you can be safe rather than sorry.
Signs and symptoms of heart disease and stroke are often ignored and passed off as just tiredness, especially among women. Always on the move, taking care of others, we ignore our health. Moreover, in many households, women’s health is not considered a priority, let alone discussed.
Though women play a critical role in maintaining the health and well-being of the family, their health always comes secondary. In addition, there is a transition in lifestyles today, putting us at greater risks of chronic diseases.
It’s no surprise that conversation around women’s health mostly revolves around reproductive health. Heart health is most often neglected. A woman’s lifetime risk of dying from heart disease is eight times greater than that of breast cancer.
India accounts for one-fifth of deaths due to cardiovascular diseases worldwide, especially in the younger population (WHO). Mortality rates due to cardiovascular diseases in India are much higher than the global average. The incidence of ischemic heart disease is increasing more rapidly among women than men.
1. Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the leading cause of death among adult women in many parts of India, and a major cause of morbidity. In some parts of the world, gender inequities have been observed in cardiovascular healthcare and outcomes.
2. Cardiovascular disease kills more women than all forms of cancer combined, and yet only 44 percent of women recognize that cardiovascular disease is their greatest health threat.
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3. Among females who are 20 years and older, nearly 45 percent are living with some form of cardiovascular disease.
4. Cardiovascular disease is the primary killer in the case of new moms and accounts for over one-third of maternal deaths.
5. Overall, 10 to 20 percent of women will have a health issue during pregnancy, and high blood pressure, preeclampsia, and gestational diabetes during pregnancy greatly increase a woman’s risk for developing cardiovascular disease later in life.
6. Going through menopause does not cause cardiovascular disease, but the approach of menopause marks a point in midlife when women’s cardiovascular risk factors can accelerate.
7. Most cardiac and stroke events can be prevented through education and lifestyle changes, such as moving more, eating smart, and managing blood pressure.
8. As much as 51.9 percent of high blood pressure deaths, otherwise known as hypertension or the “silent killer,” are in women.
9. While there are an estimated 4.1 million female stroke survivors living today, approximately 57.5 percent of total stroke deaths are in women.
10. Women are often less likely to receive bystander CPR because rescuers often fear accusations of inappropriate touching, sexual assault, or injuring the victim.