Heart Disease is often thought to be more predominant in men but in actual fact more women in a year die from heart disease than men. Heart Disease is a major threat for all women, and one should be aware that the symptoms in women can be very different from those seen in men, but educating yourself on the symptoms and risks specific to your gender, exercising, as well as including heart-friendly foods in your diet, can help reduce your risk and ultimately help protect you.

Risk factors for Heart Disease in Women: (Mayo Clinic)

Traditional risk factors seen in both men and women: High cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity

Risk factors that play a bigger role in the development of heart disease in women than men:

  • Metabolic Syndrome- this is defined broadly as a combination of fat around the abdomen, high blood pressure, high blood sugar as well as high triglycerides, although is prevalent amongst women and men alike, it has been seen to have a greater impact on women
  • Mental stress and depression- these both affect women’s hearts more than men’s. Depression normally makes it difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle as well as follow treatment guidelines
  • Smoking
  • Menopause- due to low levels of oestrogen after menopause, this poses a risk

It is important to note that not only older women should worry about heart disease, but all women under the age of 65 years whom have a family history of heart disease, and all women of all ages should take caution with heart disease.

Heart Attack symptoms for Women:

Some type of pain, pressure or discomfort in chest is the most common heart attack symptom in women, although not always severe or even the most prominent symptom. In actual fact women are more likely than men to have heart attack symptoms unrelated to chest pain, these include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Neck, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness

These symptoms are all more subtle than the crushing chest pain often associated with heart attacks. This may be because women tend to have blockages not only in their main arteries but also in smaller arteries around the heart (commonly known as small vessel heart disease or microvascular disease). Due to this, many women arrive late at an emergency room after much heart damage as they are unfamiliar with the less obvious symptoms listed above.

Reducing your risk: What can you as a woman do?

  • Maintain a healthy weight- your BMI should be between 18.9 and 24.9kg/m²
  • Quit or don’t start smoking
  • Exercise 30-60 minutes per day most days of the week
  • Eat a heart-friendly diet that is low in saturated fat, total fat, cholesterol and salt; and one that is high in Monounsaturated-, polyunsaturated fats and high in fibre. Look out for foods with the Heart Mark, these have been approved by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa and can assist with optimal Heart Health
  • Visit your doctor regularly for blood lipid profile checks and take the prescribed medications appropriately

It is important to realize that with Heart Disease, prevention is always better than cure, and where possible one should be aware of all the risks and symptoms to help improve one’s health and prolong one’s life. 

by: Lara De Santana article sponsored by @futurelifeza