Heart disease is known to be India’s biggest killer, but are women more likely to be affected? Studies suggest this is the case. The reasons for this may, at least in part, be preventable.
According to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, women are three times more likely to suffer from a heart attack. There are two reasons behind this disparity. Firstly, women are more susceptible to conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure, both of which increase the risk of heart disease. Secondly, despite knowledge of the risk factors of heart disease, many women often tend to ignore its initial symptoms and don’t seek timely medical intervention.
The report by Firstpost notes that there is a public perception that the number one health concern among women is breast cancer. This is simply not the case, with seven times more women dying from heart-related conditions than breast cancer. Breast cancer is indeed a prominent health concern, but it is far from the most common cause of death.
An article from Harvard Medical School explains the matter as being about both personal perception, and correlation related to those in a person’s direct peer group. “Breast cancer affects body image, sexuality, and self-esteem in ways that a diagnosis of heart disease does not,” says the article. “Also, heart disease tends to show up at an older age (on average, a woman’s first heart attack occurs at age seventy), so the threat may not seem all that real to younger women. Most fifty-year-old women know women their age who’ve had breast cancer but none who’ve had heart disease.”
Women typically succumb to heart conditions much later in life than men. This is, in part, due to the hormone oestrogen, which provides a protective effect against heart conditions. However, following menopause and the gradual reduction in oestrogen levels, this protective effect is negated — thereby increasing the risk of heart disease in women.
Heart disease accounted for 28.1 percent of all deaths in India in 2016. Any additional knowledge regarding the condition, or means by which people may reduce risk factors in their lives is a welcome aid. Spreading awareness of the condition could do much to aid detection not just for women, but also in men, helping to reduce mortality through early detection and treatment.