Why are women at a higher risk for heart disease than men?

Lack of recognition from Doctors

CVD classically was considered a man’s disease and it’s taken more than a decade for doctors to realise that more women are actually affected. Women are protected somewhat until menopause or so, but that’s not always the case. In fact, more women are being diagnosed in their late 30’s and early 40’s.

Atypical symptoms

With men, heart disease typically manifests itself through the classic symptoms: crushing chest pain or tightness. Women, on the other hand, often present symptoms like shortness of breath or pain in the neck, jaw, throat, upper abdomen or back. Women tend to have a lot more vague symptoms – just being tired, not being able to say what’s wrong with them. That’s all from the heart not being able to get enough oxygen.

Biological differences

Women have smaller arteries than men, so coronary artery disease develops differently, and more diffusely. Also, CAD in women tends to afflict smaller arteries that feed the heart. An angiogram, a procedure commonly performed to look for blockages in the coronary arteries, won’t always catch signs of CAD for these reasons.

Delay in treatment

The last reason has to do with deeply engrained societal norms. Women by nature are conditioned socially and culturally to be nurturers. We generally put ourselves last.

A woman is more likely to take her husband, having the same symptoms, to the doctor, rather than taking herself.

The importance of risk assessment

It’s important for women to know the main risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure or cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, lack of exercise, poor diet and high stress.

It’s also a good idea to start knowing your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar numbers staring in your late 20’s or early 30’s. Getting regular exercise (at least 30 minutes a day of moderate activity), avoiding inflammatory foods such as refined sugars and processed foods, limiting animal products and managing stress become increasingly important with age.

Moreover, look into what is leading to stress in your life. You have to be able to work on managing stress from early on in your childhood. It’s really hard to change in your 70’s if you haven’t worked on it earlier in life.

Physiotherapy can be helpful in the treatment of those with cardiovascular disease. The recommended form of treatment is a supervised exercise programme that is specially created and supervised by a physiotherapist to meet and treat your needs.

Due to the nature of cardiac diseases, each patient’s symptoms will be different therefore; it is essential that prior to physiotherapy, a medical assessment be carried out so that an appropriate exercise program will be designed for you.

If you feel like yourself or a loved one could benefit from world-class cardiovascular physiotherapy, please contact Physio Centers of Africa on 0813 208 0496.

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