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Women and Heart Health – Why We Need to Do Better

Based on statistics alone, one can easily determine that women are at great risk of suffering from cardiovascular disease. Within the US, more women lose their lives to heart disease than they do to other deadly illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, or respiratory disease. Despite how high the mortality currently is, women are still less likely to receive the proper care they need to fully recover from heart attack related symptoms.

Among the many reasons for this, the foremost is that women experience these symptoms at a later point in their lives. As a result, the current numbers state that women are three times more likely to pass away from heart attacks than men. On the bright side, deaths related to cardiovascular disease have steadily decreased over the past 20 years.

To properly understand the plight of women at risk of heart attacks, it’s important to examine the reasons for why they aren’t provided with the necessary support to combat the problem in the same manner that men are.

Why Don’t Women Get Better Cardiovascular Care?

  • Symptoms manifest differently:
    First and foremost, it is important to highlight the fact that the symptoms of heart disease vary based on biological factors. An example of this is the fact that, a damaged heart muscle will release troponin proteins, however men produce more troponin proteins than women, which leads to their cases being taken less seriously. Most (if not all) doctors are primarily taught how symptoms manifest in men, leading to the misconception that they would manifest similarly in women. This leads to women getting misdiagnosed and in worst case scenarios disregarded in terms of heart health.
  • Social attitudes about heart disease:
    The first problem caused by social attitudes is the idea that heart disease is a ‘men’s disease’, despite the fact that more women are afflicted by it. Additionally the role of women in the family as mothers and caregivers can be a great source of stress. Without proper ways of dealing with the stress, certain hormones can cause the inflammation or development of heart disease.
  • Differences in how men and women are treated:
    There is a tendency among doctors to not address women’s cardiovascular health as aggressively as they do with men. For example, doctors hesitate to perform procedures like an angioplasty on a woman if she is experiencing a heart attack. However, this might not be the result of pointed bias. Rather, its more a matter of complications stemming from the fact that women have smaller blood vessels and hearts, with a higher chance of complications.

How Can We Help?

  • Awareness and Knowledge:
    Most women are completely ignorant of heart diseases, to the point that they may suffer from them unknowingly. Spreading information on how to care for yourself if you are afflicted is the sort of knowledge that can go a long way in helping them.
  • Better access to medication:
    A lot of the medication that women need access to is expensive. This includes cholesterol-reducing medicine. Enabling women to buy these medicines will greatly benefit their survival rate.
  • Lifestyle changes:
    Heart disease is preventable, but most women aren’t aware of this. By maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly and not smoking, women can greatly increase their heart health.

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