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The last decade has seen a steady rise in the occurrence of heart attacks among women. Globally, 8.6 million women die of heart disease every year. This accounts for one-third of all the deaths among women.

Blocked coronary arteries are the most common cause of heart disease. The narrowing or blocking of the arteries that supply blood to the heart is called coronary artery disease. It develops over a period of time.

Middle age, for men and women, is a period when individuals are at the highest risk of developing a heart disease risk.

It is interesting to note that women have heart attack symptoms completely unrelated to chest pains.

Some symptoms include neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort, shortness of breath, left arm pain, nausea or vomiting, sweating, lightheadedness or dizziness, unusual fatigue.

Women and men suffer from heart disease for different reasons. Following are some causes for women suffering from heart disease:

Menopause

Once a woman starts experiencing menopause, the risk of suffering from a cardiovascular disease increases, including those women who have suffered early or surgical menopause.

This is because oestrogen is an important component in a woman’s body that keeps the risk of diseases at bay.

Family history

Genetics plays an important role in the occurrence of heart disease. Women are more prone if their father or brother has had a heart attack before the age of 55 or if their mother or sister have had one before the age of 65.

Stress or depression

Due to high emotional states like depression or tension, a woman’s heart is more affected. This is because it gets difficult for them to maintain a healthy lifestyle and follow the recommended treatments.
Smoking

Smoking is again a great risk factor. While family history, stress and menopause are less controllable factors, smoking is easily avoidable.

Women of different ages need to take care of their heart and in turn their bodies in different ways depending on the need of their bodies. Here are some tips to keep in mind at different stages of your life:

If you are in your 20s, check risk factors like family history, weight control, pressure and cholesterol. It can get difficult to eat healthy while maintaining an active social life but make sure you eat wholesome meals like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains for your own benefit in the long run.

If you are in your 30s pay proper attention to the needs of your body. Increased family and work responsibilities may take a toll on this. Restrict yourself to one drink a day or better yet avoid alcohol consumption and smoking. Your basic nutrition should include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, proteins and less saturated and trans fat.

If you are in your 40s, monitor your weight and follow a regime consisting of a healthy eating and exercise plan. It is advisable to consume at least four and a half cups of fruits and vegetables every day and meals rich in omega 3 fatty acids (including walnuts, flaxseeds, basil, Brussel sprouts, soybeans and spinach).

If you are in your 50s, a healthy active lifestyle brimming with fitness programs is all you need. Check with your physician monthly and adopt meals with low sodium content so that your blood pressure is under control.

The author is a senior cardiologist at Asian Heart Institute, Bandra-Kurla Complex, Mumbai

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