Ladies, guard against a broken heart!


So, chances are you’ve been hearing and seeing a lot information lately, about cardiovascular disease. That’s probably because cardiovascular disease matters, in a big way.

According to the World Health Organisation, 1 in 3 global deaths are caused by cardiovascular disease, making it the leading cause of death worldwide.

Worryingly, this number is set to rise rapidly over the next 2 decades. Our own local data seems to mirror these global statistics – of the approximate 19,000 deaths that occur annually in Singapore, 30% can be accounted for by cardiovascular disease.

More importantly, cardiovascular disease used to be considered a “man’s disease”, but increasingly, women, young and old, are also falling prey to this deadly killer.
In the US, rates of cardiovascular disease in women have overtaken men, and for the last 2 decades, more women than men have died of heart disease every year.

Another misconception is that heart disease affects the elderly – wrong!


A recent census indicates that the disease, its precursors and its potentially fatal consequences are increasing among a younger female demographic, particularly between 29-45 years old.


This dangerous trend, the American College of Cardiology commented, is portentous of a potential healthcare epidemic.

For the last 2 decades, more women than men have died of heart disease every year.


So what is cardiovascular disease exactly? 

Cardiovascular disease encompasses several conditions, namely coronary artery disease and strokes.



Coronary artery disease

Coronary artery diseaseor simply called, heart disease, occurs when the vessels that supply the heart muscle become narrowed due to the buildup of plaque. Plaque, which is an amalgamation of cells, fat, cholesterol and other substances, accumulates within the walls of the vessels, reducing the flow of blood.

As flow to the heart slows, this can prevent vital oxygen from reaching the heart muscle, and can cause intermittent symptoms such as chest pain and breathlessness. When a blood vessel becomes completely blocked by plaque, this results in prolonged oxygen deprivation and subsequent heart tissue death. This is known as a myocardial infarct or simply, a heart attack. A heart attack causes irreversible damage to the heart, and can result in a permanently weakened heart function thereafter.



Strokeslike heart attacks, are also caused by the same mechanism, but they occur in the blood vessels that supply the brain. Human brains are exquisitely sensitive, and even a short duration of oxygen deprivation can result in an area of brain death. Different portions of the brain control different bodily functions such as muscle strength, sensation, speech, vision, balance and coordination.

Depending on the area of the brain that is affected, victims may experience weakness, numbness, speech difficulty, unsteadiness, giddiness, or changes in vision. Recovery following a stroke is possible, but can sometimes be a long and protracted process, and some stroke sufferers can be burdened with permanent disability.

Both heart attacks and strokes are serious and potentially life threatening conditions, prompting numerous campaigns to raise awareness of these deadly diseases. In particular, extensive efforts are being devoted to educating women about the distinct differences in their cardiovascular profile as compared to their male counterparts.


So why are women unique?

 Firstly,  women differ from men in their presentation of heart disease. Instead of the classic crushing chest pain that we associate with a heart attack, women experience subtler or atypical features. These include discomfort in the neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdomen, dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, sweating or unusual fatigue. More worrying is that up to two-thirds of women who die suddenly of a heart attack can have no prior symptoms.
Even when women do develop symptoms, they are more likely to disregard their symptoms as being non-cardiac related in origin, and delay seeking medical attention. Failure to identify the symptoms isn’t the only barrier to early treatment – a whooping 36 percent of women who did recognise they were having a heart attack still did not call 995.
Doctors too, play a role, and may misinterpret a woman’s symptoms, or pay inadequate attention to her underlying risk profile, making it challenging for accurate diagnosis and prompt treatment .

Up to two-thirds of women who die suddenly of a heart attack can have no prior symptoms.

All of these factors, coupled with low awareness among women of their heightened cardiovascular risk and its attendant consequences, contribute to the poor outcomes in  women’s heart health across the world.


Soladies, guard against a broken heart today!

heart pic 2
Recognition that heart health isn’t just a man’s issue is just the first step. A crucial step in determining you own risk factor profile is visiting your doctor for a thorough checkup. Your doctor is an important partner in helping you understand your heart health – they will advise the  appropriate screening tests and interventions to help you better understand and manage your heart health. So visit your doctor today, to pave the way to your own healthy heart!

This article is the first of our new Heart Health Series. Check in again for more upcoming articles on how to optimise your heart health!

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