It has been found that a man’s coping mechanism in the face of stressful events is less adaptive, increasing their risk for heart disease. That being said, fewer women than men survive their first heart attack.
There are some conditions that only affect men, and some that impact only women. Heart disease is not a gender specific condition. Worldwide, millions of people are diagnosed with heart disease irrespective of gender. The difference lies in the age of the individual, the symptoms, and the impact of the disease.
Q:Why are men more prone to heart disease?
Dr:One cannot say that women are safe from heart disease. Both sexes can develop heart disease, however men are known to develop the condition at least ten years before women do. The main reason is the way the body reacts differs between men and women. It has been found that a man’s coping mechanism in the face of stressful events is less adaptive physiologically, psychologically, and behaviour-wise too. This increases their risk for heart disease. That being said, fewer women than men survive their first heart attack.
Q:Are the symptoms for heart disease different in men and women?
Dr:While chest pain is common to both sexes, there are a few other symptoms that differ. In fact, some women do not even feel any chest discomfort! Symptoms in women are confusing and subtle. They include nausea, upper back pain, feeling lightheaded, shortness of breath and/or discomfort in the arms, neck, and jaw. These symptoms are easily overlooked until it is too late. Heart disease related symptoms in men are quite typical. They include crushing chest pain, pain in the arm, jaw or back, shortness of breath and cold sweat.
Q:Are younger, physically fit women less likely to develop heart disease than their male counterparts?
Dr:To a certain extent this is true. Heart disease has always been an age-related condition, in that the elderly were at high-risk. However, certain lifestyle choices increase the risk of heart disease. Smoking in combination with birth control drugs increases risk for heart disease. A family history of heart disease and having other medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol play a significant role in increasing one’s risk for heart disease.
Q:Are there any specific women’s health issues that increase their risk for heart disease?
Dr:There are few conditions that increase a woman’s risk for heart disease. Insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and obesity are conditions related to polycystic ovarian disease that also increase risk for heart disease. Turner Syndrome, which is a genetic disorder in women, tends to cause high blood pressure which in turn disrupts heart health. Pregnancy related conditions such as premature birth, pregnancy induced hypertension and low birthweight increase a woman’s risk for heart disease. Menopause often causes a spike in cholesterol levels, and blood pressure all of which a risk factors for heart disease.
Q:What are conditions specific to men that signal the possibility of heart disease?
Dr:That would be Erectile dysfunction and Low Testosterone levels. Erectile Dysfunction is thought to be a man’s inability to have an erection at all. However, even being unable to sustain an erection for long enough is also considered as Erectile Dysfunction. Often this condition is considered a result of aging but in most cases, it is indicative of arterial damage as a precursor to heart disease symptoms in the future. Getting treated as soon as one notices ED, can help prevent serious outcomes of heart disease. Likewise low testosterone is not just about diminished sex drive. It is also linked to heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Being aware of changes in one’s sex drive and getting it checked out, can be a life saver.
Q:How to prevent heart disease through lifestyle changes?
Dr:Making healthy choices is what both men and women should do. If you are a smoker, stop now. Not just heart disease, smoking causes several worrisome health conditions to the smoker and those around him/her. Drink alcohol in moderation. Eat a heart healthy diet. Load up on leafy greens for all round good health. Make sure to work out for 120 – 150 minutes a week. Maintain proper blood sugar, BP, and cholesterol levels. If you have a family history of heart disease, stay alert to changes in your body and consult with your doctor if you notice symptoms like shortness of breath and chest discomfort.
CONSULTANT – CARDIOLOGY
MBBS, MD (GENERAL MEDICINE), DNB, DM(Cardiology), DNB(Cardiology)