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Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute 30 Aug 2020

Women and Heart Disease: Learn the Risks and What to Watch Out For

Heart conditions don't only affect men

Many women don’t realize that heart disease is a serious threat to their health. Because of this, women are less aware of the risk factors and symptoms and are slower to call for an ambulance when they have a heart attack - reducing their chances of survival.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Consider some of these facts:

  • Many deaths in the UAE are caused by cardiovascular disease
  • Heart disease causes nearly three times more fatalities in women than breast cancer
  • Women with diabetes have a two to four times higher risk of a stroke or death from cardiovascular disease compared with women who do not have diabetes

Know the Risks

Factors that increase your likelihood of getting cardiovascular disease include:

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Physical inactivity
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Having diabetes
  • Having a family history of heart disease - this means if your father, mother, brother or sister has, or had, coronary heart disease at a young age
  • Older age
  • Your ethnic background - people from South Asian or African descent are at a higher risk of heart disease and stroke

However, there are small things you can do every day to protect yourself and reduce your risk.

Quit smoking. If you currently smoke cigarettes, it is necessary to quit. Within one year of stopping, your risk of heart disease is reduced by half.

Blood pressure. High blood pressure, or hypertension, greatly increases your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. There are often no symptoms of high blood pressure, so it is important to have it regularly checked by your medical professional. Doing more exercise, maintaining your optimal weight and reducing salt intake can help prevent or reduce high blood pressure.

Cholesterol. Cholesterol is a fatty substance in your blood. It is an important component in cell function but too much of it can increase your risk of heart problems. Reducing the amount of saturated fat you eat can help you maintain a healthy cholesterol level.

Diabetes. Diabetes significantly increases your risk of getting heart and circulatory disease. However, if you have diabetes, controlling your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol can help reduce your risk.

Weight. If you’re overweight or obese, you are at a higher risk of developing heart disease. Maintaining a healthy weight can protect your heart.

Activity. Doing physical activity is one way of cutting your risk. It helps to lower your blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, control your weight and reduce your risk of diabetes. Aim to be active every day. Public health organizations recommend 150 minutes of physical activity per week. This can be broken up and spread across the week. You could walk to do your shopping rather than taking the car, for example.

Change is possible

It doesn’t matter if you are young or old. As a woman, it’s important to make positive changes to improve your lifestyle and help protect your heart. If you currently have a heart condition, implementing some of the suggestions here can prevent it from getting worse. Why not start by visiting your doctor for a regular check-up, where you can also ask to discuss any risk factors based on your current health? Take action to protect your heart and power your life.

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