How to Prevent Cardiac Diseases in Women

29th May 2015

Who really wants a cardiac condition? Impending doom, anyone? Prevention is the key to avoiding these diseases, some of which affect women more than men! Find out here how to prevent those heart attacks and blood pressure issues, for good!

Cardiac diseases that affect women more

Atherosclerosis

“Hardening of the arteries”, or artherosclerosis, causes diseases that make up the most likely cause of death for both men and women in the US, and we’re not far behind. It is one of the first stages of coronary heart disease, and kills around 1 in 3 females. That’s a lot more than breast cancer, which affects one in eight.

Athersclerosis involves the build-up of cholesterol, fatty substances, cell waste products, calcium and fibrin, which collect and form a “plaque” which narrows and hardens your arteries. This causes inflammation and scar tissue formation, restricting blood flow and limiting the amount of oxygen that can get to your organs.

What symptoms do women have?

Chest pain, angina, leg pain: but only when the condition becomes serious. That means we should try and prevent problems occurring now.

Angina occurs when there isn’t enough blood getting to the heart. Triggers include physical exertion, emotional stress, extreme cold or hot weather, heavy meals, alcohol and smoking.

Women may not present the same symptoms as men, but they may have shortness of breath or indigestion. If you think you’re having a heart attack, seek emergency medical attention.

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Broken heart syndrome or cardiomyopathy from stress

Takotsubo syndrome, broken heart syndrome or cardiomyopathy is much like a traditional heart attack, and may be related to grief, stress or emotional trauma. The heart muscle cannot pump the blood out into the body fast enough, and appears broken. This may cause heart failure, and can be life-threatening.

What symptoms do women have?

Chest pain, shortness of breath, arm pain, sweating. This condition can be caused by stress. More than 90% of cases have been women, and it’s especially common after the menopause.

How are cardiac disease and menopause related?woman-menopause-4

Heart disease is a risk for everyone, but symptoms seem to become more evident after the onset of menopause in women.

It is not the case that menopause causes heart problems, but smoking, a bad diet and other unhealthy vices may start to show in the body. An overall increase in heart attacks occurs around 10 years after the menopause.

Oestrogen levels may play a role in the health of the heart. When oestrogen levels lower, there is no longer a positive effect on the artery walls, keeping blood vessels flexible.

Blood pressure may start to go up, as do triglycerides and cholesterol.

Heart attacks in women are different

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The signs of a heart attack in women include the following:

  • An uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the centre of the chest, which lasts for a few minutes then returns.
  • Pain or discomfort in the arms, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath, with or without discomfort in the chest.
  • Nausea, vomiting, back or jaw pain (most likely in women).

Preventing cardiac diseases in women

If you have diabetes, a diet high in saturated fats, drink pretty often, have a history of heart disease in your family, high blood cholesterol, pressure, obesity, smoke and don’t exercise very often, you need to get moving as soon as you can and actively prevent cardiac diseases.

A health diet is the most important part, so lower your calories, add in a lot of good fats, eliminate the bad fats, and include plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit in your diet. Choose whole grain sources of your favourite foods, fish, lean protein and cut out dairy.

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Lifestyle changes

Do:

  • Stay positive, do things you enjoy, smile, spend time with family and the people you love.
  • Leave the house at least once a day for a little walk, swim, yoga class or dance class.
  • Buy a dog or find another reason to go down the park and walk on a regular basis. Go with your partner or friend.
  • Stop smoking and drinking for at least a while. Cut them out completely, and see you how you feel. What’s the harm in trying it? Set a good example for your loved ones.
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