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In India, cardiovascular disease is slowly becoming one of the leading causes of death in women, although heart disease is often considered a problem...

In India, cardiovascular disease is slowly becoming one of the leading causes of death in women, although heart disease is often considered a problem for men. It is an alarming situation since heart attacks appear differently in women than in men and are relatively more fatal in postmenopausal women than in men.

The high consumption of saturated fats, sugar and salt, the low consumption of vegetables and whole grains, together with sedentary lifestyles, increased stress levels and smoking are the main factors that contribute to the deterioration of heart health in women of India.

Heart attack symptoms for women

Young women, who report symptoms of heart attack, such as indigestion, shortness of breath, palpitations or pain in the jaw, neck or arms, are more likely than men to be ruled out by their doctors for not being related to the heart, which increases the risk of death than men of similar age.

We believe that women are less likely to have chest pain from acute myocardial infarction, commonly known as a heart attack, but the fact is that women are increasingly dying from this disease.

Is heart disease something only older women should worry about?

No. Women of all ages should take heart disease seriously. Women under the age of 40, and especially those with a family history of heart disease, need to pay close attention to heart disease risk factors.

Heart disease risk factors for women

Although several traditional risk factors for coronary artery disease — such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity — affect women and men, other factors may play a bigger role in the development of heart disease in women.

Diabetes: Women with diabetes are at greater risk of heart disease than are men with diabetes.

Mental stress and depression: Both mental and physical stress is high in today's society, particularly in the young population. Highly competitive and intense work demands lead to increase in risk factors for heart diseases, such as stress, increased incidences of diabetes and blood pressure. These conditions are aggravated by smoking, excessive consumption of alcohol, lack of exercise and lack of sleep.

Smoking: In women, smoking is a greater risk factor for heart disease in women than it is in men.

Inactivity: Lack of physical activity is a major risk factor for heart disease, and some research has found women to be more inactive than men.

Menopause: Low levels of estrogen after menopause pose a significant risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease in the smaller blood vessels (coronary microvascular disease).

Broken heart syndrome: This condition — often brought on by stressful situations that can cause severe, but usually temporary, heart muscle failure — occurs more commonly in women after menopause. This condition may also be called takotsubo cardiomyopathy, apical ballooning syndrome or stress cardiomyopathy.

What can women do to reduce their risk of heart disease?

Women can make several lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of heart disease, including:

Quit or don't start smoking.

Exercise regularly.

Maintain a healthy weight.

Eat a healthy diet that includes whole grains, a variety of fruits and vegetables, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, and lean meats. Avoid saturated or trans fat, added sugars, and high amounts of salt.

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