Thursday, March 4th, 2010

You and Your Heart

heart 1

What’s your first reaction when you hear the term heart disease? Like many women you may think, “That’s a man’s disease and it’s not for me.” But here is the truth. Heart disease is the number one killer in women, more than breast cancer.

For ages we believed that estrogen protected us from heart related ailments. However, in times like these the protective cover offered by estrogen is dwindling and women need to be careful about their heart. Dr Hansa Gupta, Gurgaon based consultant cardiologist divulges, “Earlier women who would come with heart problems would be mature women who had entered menopause, but of late I am seeing a lot of young women with heart complications and by the time they fix an appointment they have full blown symptoms which couldn’t be ignored any more.” Sounds scary! Don’t despair because we tell you the facts….

Women and men have been different in matters of heart and now medical research confirms it. When women get heart attacks their chances of survival for strange reasons are less than men, shares Dr Gupta.

Moreover, for women symptoms differ and so do the ways to detect heart disease. For heart disease, we always think of symptoms like chest pain, but women may have different symptoms, like a bit of jaw pain, shoulder ache, nausea, vomiting or shortness of breath and may mistake it with flatulence. Again extreme fatigue can also be a symptom of heart disease.

The ways to detect heart disease are also different, and the usually reliable stress test and ECG goofs up in giving true picture of women’s heart. Hence, nuclear test is a better predictor of women’s heart.

Risk factors

For women the risk factors are the same as men, but there are certain factors which are just unique to women and we will tell you those—–

Smoking: For both men and women smoking is bad and it tops the risk factors for heart disease. But, if you smoke and have oral contraceptive pills, it is a lethal combination.

Diabetes: Diabetes makes you twice more vulnerable to heart disease and there is early onset of diabetes in Indians. According to the latest Howard study, diabetes discriminates too, because it more than doubles the risk of cardiac death in women, while raising it 60% in women.

High blood pressure: According to studies many women suffer from undiagnosed high blood pressure, which damages the heart. Moreover, hypothyroidism is increasing in women and there is an established link between hypothyroidism and high blood pressure. Moreover, women are in denial mode and unlike men will not take their medicines every day.

Cholesterol levels: Levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol above 130 mg/dL are thought to signal even greater risk for men, while levels of “good” HDL cholesterol below 50 mg/dL are seen as greater warnings for women. High triglyceride levels (over 150 mg/dL) are also a more significant risk factor for women.

Weight: Excess weight is one of the confirmed risk factors for heart disease. But, latest research studies say that more than fat, location of fat decides the degree to which you will be predisposed to heart disease. This implies that fat on belly is more harmful than fat on hips because abdominal fat releases substances which interfere with insulin activity and promote the production of bad cholesterol.

Stress: You just can’t ignore the effects of stress on your heart. In a bid to get more out of life, we are biting more than we can chew. What does this mean? We are on short fuse and this raises our blood pressure. Moreover, stress makes you vulnerable to unhealthy lifestyle and this increases your risk factors for heart disease.

Ultimately, all factors are linked.

Now what can you do?

1. To begin with, we all should start taking life less seriously, because nobody ever came alive out of it.
2. Plan your meals and see that you eat good nutritious foods, which have all colours.
3. Bite as much as you can chew, and if you see that your stress levels are impacting your health, it’s high time you drew a line.
4. Sleep on it. Yes, sleep is the magic wand that refreshes and rejuvenates you. If getting a good night rest meant less of partying or less of TV and internet time, let it be, but do not compromise on your sleep.
5. Get moving. This is good to your body, and your heart as well.
6. Supplement search. Some studies recommend fish oil to improve your cholesterol levels, ask your doctor. Similarly, coenzyme Q 10 is recommended for healthy heart.

Finally, no doctor ever prescribed it , but search your soul. In the humdrum of life we have lost it. Get it back and purge it of unnecessary guilt, anger and bitterness. You will feel lighter and your heart will feel happier.

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