Every year September 29 is observed as "World Heart Day" to "encourage everyone throughout the world to take action and protect himself from the very real threat of cardiovascular disease, and to call on governments to support population-wide programmes to increase physical activity".
It so happens that while it comes to heart disease, the focus is often on men. But the truth is women are as susceptible to the disease as men. Not just women, these days children's heart ailments are on focus too. Perhaps quite aptly the 2013 World Heart Day will "highlight a life-course approach to the prevention and control of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) with a focus on women and children and show what actions can be taken through a person's life to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease".
According to World Health Organisation(WHO), CVDs are the number one cause of death globally: more people die annually from CVDs than from any other cause. What is alarming is according to WHO over 80% of CVD deaths occur almost equally in men and women.
According to the World Health Federation, heart disease is the number one killer of women, causing one in three deaths. Putting it in perspective, speaking to Thursday magazine, Dr Devi Prasad Shetty, India's prominent cardiothoracic surgeon and chairman, Narayana Health says, "Women till the age of 45 are generally protected by the hormones.
"However, after the age of 45 they are as vulnerable as men in developing heart disease. However, women who are diabetic and women who smoke are at much higher risk.
Women generally have narrow coronary artery which can result in poor outcome following cardiac intervention. Women in India are more vulnerable for valvular heart disease and one out of 140 children born anywhere in the world has a heart disease."
Advising women to be alert, he says, "Women generally tend to ignore their symptoms because of their major commitment to the family especially in Indian context. So, their disease gets priority after taking care of the need of the breadwinner and the children. In the process, women present to the heart hospital at an advanced stage."
Talking about children Dr Shetty says, "In India 28 billion children are born every year and we produce at least 600-800 children a day with heart disease. If children are given healthy food, their chances of developing heart disease gets significantly less when they grow up to be adults."
Dr Shetty, who heads Narayana Health in Bangalore a 3,000 bed Health City with major interest in heart, cancer, bone marrow transplant, renal, neuro says, "Children should avoid junk food, eat healthy vegetarian diet with fish and chicken however, avoid red meat. Fatty food, fried food should be avoided and children should exercise. Coronary artery disease starts at a very young age especially during childhood."
Women must remember that CVD is not just a male disease. It is time that they start perceiving CVD as among the greatest threat to their health.
Women and heart disease and stroke
Worldwide, cardiovascular disease is mainly seen as a male problem, whereas breast cancer is considered to be the most important chronic disease in women. However, cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the largest single cause of death also in women, accounting for approximately one-third of the deaths, while breast cancer is responsible for less than 5%. CVD causes 8.5 million deaths among women annually.
It's the largest single cause of mortality among women, accounting for one-third of all deaths in women worldwide. In developing countries, half of all deaths of women over 50 are due to heart disease and stroke.
Projections for coronary heart disease (CHD) death rate in developing countries suggest that it will increase by 120% for women and 137% for men during the next two decades. The Middle East is expected to be among the regions that will experience a tripling o