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.
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 disease, or 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.
Strokes, like 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?
Up to two-thirds of women who die suddenly of a heart attack can have no prior symptoms.
So ladies, guard against a broken heart today!
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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