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Times of India
08 September 2011
By, Mansi Kohli

Heart disease, while usually associated with men, is just as much of a threat for women as it is for their male counterparts. Not only that, heart disease is finding a younger audience with each passing year.

How heart disease affects women
Thus, women of all ages should be concerned about their heart health and make heart health preservation an active part of their daily fitness endeavours. Today, Dr Hemlata Tewari, Sr. Consultant, Cardiology at Rockland Hospital answers our top 5 queries on how heart disease affects women.

Why women are more prone to heart attack than men. The overall incidence of heart disease is increasing in women. In the reproductive age, female hormones have a protective effect on coronary arteries. Therefore, coronary artery disease is comparatively less in this age group. Present scenario dictates changing lifestyles of women. There are more women smokers and alcohol intake is also common. Professionally also they are exposed to too much of tension and to strike a balance with family and professional life, they have to work ten times more than their male counterparts. This leads to stress which is a risk factor for heart attack.

Warning signs of a heart attack in woman. Chest pain, breathlessness, weakness, sweating, pain in left shoulder, pain in neck, pain in jaw, and palpitation. But in some cases chest pain may be atypical. They are more likely to have burning sensation, pain in jaw, pain in the left shoulder and back. Women experience more nausea, vomiting indigestion symptoms and fatigue and there may be no chest pain.

How to reduce the risk of heart attack in women. Risk of heart attack can be reduced by controlling risk factors like maintaining healthy weight, controlling diabetes, blood pressure, eating healthy food, regular exercises, and by not smoking. Healthy weight is maintaining normal BMI (body mass index). Normal BMI is less than 23 in Indian women and less than 25 in males. For controlling diabetes and blood pressure regular health check up is required once a year in those who have abnormal BP and diabetes and once in two years with normal BP and normal sugar.

Is heart disease something only older women should worry about? Age is no bar for heart disease. But in younger age, female hormones have a protective effect on coronary arteries. After menopause, incidence of CAD is equal in both men and women, but stress can expose women to a risk factor for heart disease.

Is the treatment for heart disease in women different than in men? Medical treatment for heart disease in men and women is the same: coronary dilators, beta blockers, blood thinners like aspirin, and clopidogrel for stable angina. For acute heart attack: loading dose of aspirin, clopidogrel followed by revesculization which may be done either by thombolysing or by PTCA. If required coronary bypass surgery can be done. The size of coronary arteries is smaller in women therefore the size of stent required may be smaller as compared to that for men.
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