Lifestyle eroding women’s resilience to heart disease: Doctors’ survey

New Delhi, June 27 (IANS) A new survey shows that changing lifestyle has exposed women to the risk of cardiovascular diseases, shattering the popular belief that oestrogen hormone protects them from such ailments.

The survey, “Visualising the Extent of Heart Disease in Indian Women”, revealed that 65 percent doctors believe that oestrogen’s deficiency due to changing lifestyle and other co-morbid conditions are among the top five reasons responsible for younger women developing cardiovascular diseases.

According to the survey, 55 percent of cardiologists observed 16-20 percent growth in cardiovascular diseases among women in the last five years, while 41 percent of the doctors claimed 10-15 percent growth in such diseases among women in the age group of 20-40 years — the category which was earlier considered protected from heart ailments.

“Quite contrary to conventional medical ideology that due to oestrogen hormone women, especially menstruating ones, are safe from heart diseases, lately, there has been a significant rise in number of female cardiovascular patients,” said J.P.S. Sawhney, senior cardiologist at the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital here.

“The trend may be attributed to changing lifestyle, which is bringing such drastic hormonal changes that the heart protecting effect of oestrogen is getting nullified,” Sawhney added.

The survey showed that due to changes in lifestyle, not only have the risk factors for the cardiovascular diseases like stress, smoking and drinking increased considerably, but co-morbid conditions like obesity, hypertension and diabetes have also gone up.

But despite the threat, 83 percent of the doctors believed that Indian women are ignorant about heart diseases, while 76 percent observed that women die of heart diseases as they do not seek medical assistance in time for their condition.

Sixty-six percent of doctors agreed that cardiovascular disease-related deaths among women are due to late diagnosis.

“Women often overlook symptoms and discomfort pertaining to heart diseases, and rarely consult an expert. Even if they opt for consultation, more often than not, they discontinue the treatment as soon as they get symptomatic relief. The compliance rate is comparatively poor among women,” Sawhney said.

The survey also revealed a striking contrast between working and non-working women in terms of awareness and risk factors.

While 81 percent of the doctors believed that working women are more conscious about their heart health, majority of the doctors still noted that heart diseases are on the rise in working women.

“Considering the fact that working women juggle home and work responsibilities, they are more likely to get exposed to stress and unhealthy lifestyle and, therefore, may be more prone to cardiovascular diseases as compared to non-working women,” said Chandrakant S. Pandav, head of the department, Centre for Community Medicine, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

“Nevertheless, due to huge burden of household responsibilities and lack of self-care, non-working women cannot be considered to be at lesser risk,” he added.

The survey covered about 600 cardiologists and general practitioners from both metro and non-metro cities and was based on subjective and objective questions.

“In India more than 400 million people have stress, which is one of the major reasons of all health problems, and change in lifestyles is a major reason causing cardio-vascular diseases, Pandav said.

“Cardio-vascular diseases in women in India, where a large percentage of the population is diabetic, are likely to increase by 17 percent in the coming 10 years, Kapil Yadav of the Centre for Community Medicine, AIIMS said.

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