On World Heart Day, focus is on women & children

New Delhi: As the world grapples with an increasing burden of cardiovascular diseases, it is the women who might be under a greater threat as they tend to underestimate their risk of developing heart ailments, the roots of which are laid at an early age.

According to leading cardiologist Dr Upendra Kaul, women, no less than men, are prone to developing cardiovascular diseases and diabetes makes women three to four times more prone to have a heart attack.

In fact, as the World Heart Federation observes September 29 as World Heart Day, it has professed to make 2012 the year of cardiovascular disease prevention among women and children.

Dr Kaul, Executive Director and Dean Cardiology, Escorts Heart Institute and Fortis Vasant Kunj, says women have still not completely shed the myth that ‘heart attack is a disease of men’ even though at least half of the deaths in women occur due to heart disease and related problems.

Moreover, he says, women might also experience heart attack differently than men who mostly experience chest pain in the situation.

“Some women do not experience chest pain during heart attack. In addition, women are more likely to have additional warning symptoms and signs like back ache, abdominal pain, jaw pain, shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting,” says Dr Kaul.

Such variations of symptoms often cause a delay in recognising heart attack in women and may lead to more complications and a higher mortality.

The cardiologist says while the disease manifests itself during adulthood, it is right in childhood that its foundations start taking root. It is imperative, therefore, that right lifestyle and habits are adopted in the early stages of life itself.

“Plaque begins building up in the walls of the arteries very early in life. In fact, fatty buildup has been identified in the hearts of children as young as five years old. Heart disease is the result of a lifelong process and as such intervention strategies to reduce risk should begin in childhood,” Dr Kaul says.

While corrective procedures once heart ailments strike are cumbersome, it is relatively easy to prevent or cut the chances of your body succumbing to cardiac problems.

A ‘heart-healthy’ diet and physical exercise, if adopted from the beginning might just be the right remedy.

Making sure that one gets 30 minutes of moderately intense physical activity daily and cutting down saturated fats that raise blood cholesterol levels – from your diet cuts the risk of coronary artery disease.

So while a diet full of fruits and vegetables is a must, red meat, bakery products and deep fried fast foods should be removed from your daily plate.

“Getting regular daily exercise, that can help control weight, can reduce the risk of fatal heart disease, and when combined with other lifestyle measures like diet, the payoff is even greater,” he says.