When thinking about women’s health issues, heart disease does not often top the list as a leading cause of medical distress. However, following dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and lung cancer, heart disease accounts for 11% of deaths in the UK for those over age 80 and is the second leading cause of death for those aged 65 to 79. For women between the ages of 35 and 49, heart disease is the fourth leading cause of death, and for those aged 50 to 64, the health condition falls behind breast and lung cancer as a prominent cause of death. Given the prevalence of heart disease among women, directed initiatives have taken place throughout the UK to increase awareness and provide education about prevention.
Recently, NHS Choices, Public Health England, and the British Heart Foundation have come together to provide an easy-to-use tool to detect a health of an individual’s heart. With the Know Your Heart Age test, made available through a simple online platform, women can complete a self-assessment that offers the following insight into their heart health:
Understanding the age of the heart compared to real age
Explaining the benefits of knowing blood pressure levels and cholesterol numbers
Offering advice on how to reduce one’s heart age
Knowing how healthy the heart is compared to how strong the heart should be given one’s age is a significant step toward the prevention of heart disease for women at any age. Similarly, recognising what causes heart disease in women and strategies to reduce risks benefit women’s health tremendously.
What Causes Heart Disease?
Heart disease is defined as the build-up of atheroma, or fatty deposits, in the arteries surrounding the heart which results in a restriction of the blood flow to the heart muscle. Most women face the risk of heart disease when they smoke throughout a lifetime, if they have high blood pressure, or if their blood cholesterol level is high for their age. In some cases, heart disease can be linked to diabetes, skipping out on regular physical activity, or being unhealthily overweight. Any combination of these common health issues can lead to the progression of heart disease in women at any age, although the risk of developing heart disease rises significantly in the years following menopause.
When heart disease takes hold, women can experience heart failure as blood cannot pump throughout the body. Shortness of breath, dizziness, fluid buildup and confusion are often signs of heart failure. When a pain in the chest takes place and comes on suddenly, a heart attack may be the culprit. As cholesterol builds up in the arteries, some may break off which results in the blockage of a blood vessel leading to a heart attack. These effects of heart disease may be fatal to women when they are not caught early.
Many women who are relatively healthy do not expect heart disease will impact them at any age. Unfortunately, thousands suffer from the effects of heart disease without fully understanding the underlying cause. Part of the disconnect may be linked to an initial misdiagnosis, explained by a team solicitors specialized in negligent surgical procedures. In some cases, medical professionals miss the mark of diagnosing a heart attack in women because they do not resemble patients who are more likely to suffer from heart disease – individuals who are overweight, heavy smokers or drinkers, or men. A misdiagnosis can lead to a delay in life-saving treatment and medical care one needs to survive a heart attack and ultimately recover from the side effects of heart disease.
Women can take action in preventing heart disease by making improvements to their lifestyle when needed. Eating a healthy diet, getting routine exercise, and giving up smoking and excessive drinking all work to the benefit of a woman’s overall health and well-being. Similarly, some studies have shown stress as a cause of heart disease, and reducing external stressors may help in the fight. While utilising the Know Your Heart Age test allows women to gain an understanding of their current heart health from a high-level view, taking the time to go through a thorough heart health screening that includes an evaluation of blood pressure, cholesterol levels, body weight, and blood glucose is a necessary part of the process. Each of these steps can be taken to help stave off heart disease in women, regardless of the traditional risk factors in place or one’s age.