With the current (and much deserved) focus on Breast Cancer it is, however, important to remember that there are other health care issues that every women should be aware of and take appropriate action to prevent.
This includes cardiovascular disease or CVD because, even with all medical advances made so far, heart attacks amongst women still often go undetected and/or are misdiagnosed; a particularly worrying fact since CVD has now become the largest single cause of mortality amongst women worldwide.
One of the problems is that the common perception of what a heart attack looks like is still very much based on the Hollywood idea of heavy chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea, sweating and fainting. And in general, this is true: for men. However, what most of the population and even some medical professionals don't know is that the warning signs in men and women differ. Plus, they are usually also more subtle. Combine this with the fact that many women themselves don't experience the symptoms as sever enough to consult a doctor or simply do not have the time, then no wonder it has essentially become a global epidemic.
Another contributing factor is that most research is still focused specifically on men. A scientist actually told famed actress, singer and director and heart disease activist, Barbara Streisand, that “we don't study them [female lab mice] because they're too complex – they have hormones, you know”.
The real-world impact of all these factors and great cause for concern is that, resultantly, women are far less likely to receive the appropriate medical intervention and they are therefore far more likely to die.
It is consequently of vital importance that women themselves take control of their heart health and not only make sure to lead a healthy lifestyle, but to also start insisting that their doctors take this diagnosis into account when they are experiencing the below symptoms:
- Any uneasiness in the chest
- Abdominal, neck, jaw, throat and back pain
- An irregular heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Extreme fatigue
What is also important for every woman, especially those who have gone through menopause, is to regularly go for blood tests in order to keep a close eye on certain important figures that are excellent indicators of a person's level of risk. For healthy adults these are:
- Total cholesterol: 5mmol/L or less
- LDL or “bad” cholesterol: 3mmol/L or less
- HDH or “good” cholesterol: 1mmol/L or less
- Triglycerides: 1.5mmol/L or less
- Optimal Blood Pressure: less than 120/80 and more than 90/60
- Body Mass Index: 18.5 – 24.9 kg/m
- Waist circumference: less than 80 cm
At the end of the day, even though a lot of research still has to be conducted to truly understand specifically women's heart disease, there are certain precautions one can take to significantly reduce the risk of this happening to yourself or someone you know. By taking responsibility for yourself, by committing to a healthy cholesterol diet and moderate exercise, you do have some control over this silent killer.