Angina in women? Are you surprised? Well, you are not alone. Many people falsely believe that heart diseases like angina happen to men alone. However, this is totally wrong as angina is prevalent in both women and men.
In fact, heart disease is the biggest killer of women worldwide and the tragedy is that it is, most of the time, preventable.
Heart diseases often go undetected and wrongly diagnosed in women because women have the habit of downplaying their symptoms.
One of the most common signs of heart disease is “angina’, a clutching sensation or tightness in the chest region. Has anyone gripped your hand tightly? The pressure and the strain that you experience is similar to what your heart feels like during an angina episode. Angina or chest pain is a type of tightness or heaviness in the chest.
Angina usually occurs due to the build-up of a fatty plaque in the heart’s blood vessels, which can block the blood flow necessary to provide oxygen that your heart requires to function. This can make the oxygen-starved heart feel like it’s being squeezed or clutched by an invisible hand.
Angina pain is actually a warning, in fact, an SOS signal from the heart. It is your heart’s way of indicating that all is not well with it. Recognizing angina and treating the hidden cause early is essential to prevent a health crisis like a heart attack.
However, this usually doesn’t happen because the symptoms of angina are not classical or typical in women, unlike the symptoms in men.
Women are more likely to have heart attack symptoms unrelated to chest pain, such as:
Some women may not have chest pain at all. Since these symptoms are often not well-defined and subtle as compared to men, they might get neglected or mistaken for a less serious problem like acidity or panic attack and this can prove to be dangerous and at times even fatal.
How is angina different in men and women?
The usual cause of angina in men are blockages in the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart i.e. the coronary arteries. Women more frequently develop angina pain due to dysfunction of the very small arteries that branch out from the coronary arteries. This is referred to as microvascular disease (MVD).
Microvascular angina may be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms, like nausea, and indigestion, mimic other illnesses.
Risk factors for angina in women
Diabetic women are at a 3-fold excess risk of coronary artery disease compared to non- diabetic women .
The impact of obesity on the development of Coronary artery disease appears to be greater in women than in men.
- Mental stress
Women are more sensitive and emotional. Hence, stress affects their hearts more.
In women, smoking is a greater risk factor for developing heart disease than it is in men.
Low levels of estrogen after menopause pose a big risk factor in women.
- Sedentary lifestyle
Inactivity and sedentary behavior are higher among women than men.
Moreover, pregnancy complications such as high blood pressure or gestational diabetes and certain inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus may also increase a woman’s risk of heart disease. One of the first signs of this heart disease may be angina.
Women can make several lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of angina:
*Diet that includes whole grains, fatty or oily fish, a variety of fruits and vegetables, fat-free dairy products, and lean meats. Limit trans-fats, added sugars, and salt.