New Delhi: Women are
equally if not more prone to heart attacks even though
traditionally they were thought to be relatively immune to cardiac
ailments, doctors say. Cardiovascular diseases claim 17.3 million
lives a year according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
"Over the last few years, more women patients are coming with
heart problems," Praveer Agarwal, interventional cardiologist of
Fortis Escorts Heart Institute, told IANS ahead of World Heart Day
that will be celebrated Thursday.
According to WHO statistics, the number of coronary diseases in
women have increased by 300 percent in the last five years.
"Previously women's health was not given equal importance.
Genetically males and females are equal, so heart problems affect
both," Agarwal said.
Doctors say that women have always been prone to heart problems
but the changing lifestyle has exposed them to it further.
Working women have to suffer from dual stress. Women who smoke and
drink, those who have high blood pressure and diabetes or take
oral contraceptives, and those in post menopausal stage, are most
prone to heart problems, doctors say.
Nearly nine million women across the world die of heart problems,
and this is a third of all causes of death in women, according to
Anil Dhall a senior interventional cardiologist in Delhi's
neighbouring Gurgaon. Nearly three million die of stroke.
"Contrary to popular belief, nearly 45 percent women die in a year
after the first heart attack compared to 25 percent men. They
therefore have double the risk of dying after a heart stroke,"
"The problem was always there, but earlier, women did not go for
check-ups and their condition was not diagnosed," Agarwal said.
Popular belief has it that women in their reproductive years are
at a lower risk of heart problems due to oestrogen, a hormone that
protects them from certain heart conditions.
Doctors agree but add that changing lifestyles have reduced the
effect of this factor.
"If a woman smokes, the effect of oestrogen is negated," said
Praveen Chandra, chairman of interventional cardiology at Medanta
hospital on the outskirts of Delhi.
"Oral contraceptives also have negative effect," he added.
Lack of awareness and self-care makes women even more vulnerable.
"Heart problems in women usually are under reported. Traditionally
people think women don't need regular health check-ups... no one
thinks of their mother going for an angioplasty or bypass
surgery," Dhall pointed out.
"Another reason why heart diseases in women go unreported is that
they may not display the symptoms. There are certain conditions
which go undiagnosed," he added.
The precautions are simple - exercise, stress management and
"Exercise, walk, diet, stress management, avoiding smoking and
drinking and regular health and heart check-ups are important,"
World Heart Day was kick-started in 2000 to inform people around
the world about heart ailments and strokes, according to the World
In partnership with the WHO, the World Heart Federation organizes
awareness events in more than 100 countries.
(Anjali Ojha can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)