Heart Disease: Why Young Women Are At Risk

Practo has witnessed a 215% increase in total consultations related to cardiovascular health, with women in the age group of 25 to 34 contributing to the largest number of consultations.

Medical professionals are expressing growing concerns about the increasing risk of heart disease among young women. This alarming trend is attributed to factors such as lifestyle changes and heightened stress levels.

While common risk factors for heart disease affect both genders, women face additional and unique risks.

The digital health care platform Practo has witnessed a 215 per cent increase in total consultations related to cardiovascular health, with women in the age group of 25 to 34 contributing to the largest number of consultations, accounting for 57 per cent.

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“Certain risk factors appear to be common to all biological genders: Hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity,” points out Dr Sarita Rao, a senior interventional cardiologist and director of Cathlab at Apollo Hospital in Indore.

“However, some additional factors unique to women or more prevalent among them include miscarriages (not abortion), preterm birth, and a history of depression,” she adds.

“Hormone replacement therapy and oral contraceptives, though generally safe for most young women, may increase the risk in some individuals and should not be taken without consulting a doctor.”

Furthermore, health care professionals in hospitals may sometimes underestimate the possibility of a heart attack in young women.

“It’s important to note that when a young woman does have a heart attack, it is typically linked to risk factors that have been present since an early age,” pointed out Dr Ameya Udyavar, consultant, cardiologist and cardiac electrophysiologist at the P D Hinduja Hospital and Medical Research Centre in Mumbai.

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In a comparison of young men and women in the ACS QUIK (acute coronary syndrome quality improvement in Kerala) trial, where a total of 21,374 adults participated, it was found that young women were more likely to have diabetes (51.3 per cent versus 33.4 per cent) and hypertension (47.7 per cent versus 31.7 per cent) when experiencing acute myocardial infarction (AMI), indicating a higher prevalence of these risk factors among female participants.

Moreover, the study revealed that young women experienced a significantly higher rate of in-hospital major adverse cardiovascular events with an adjusted relative risk, suggesting poorer short-term outcomes.

Among these participants, 22 per cent of the total were categorised as young (younger than 50 years). Within this group, there were 614 females, constituting approximately 12.9 per cent of the young population.

In light of these alarming trends, experts are emphasising the need for gender-specific approaches to promote heart health in India.

Traditionally, oestrogen, found in women of menstrual age, was believed to protect against early heart attacks. However, Dr Rao notes that recent lifestyle changes have disrupted this trend, with more young women experiencing cardiac diseases than in the past.

She cites an American study, Variation In Recovery: Role Of Gender On Outcomes Of Young AMI Patients, which indicates that younger women who have had heart attacks may experience more adverse outcomes than men of a similar age.

Dr Rajeev Rathi, director and head of the transradial intervention programme in cardiology at Max Super Specialty Hospital in Saket, attributes the rising cases among women to lifestyle changes, citing excessive smoking, high-stress levels, physical inactivity, and the early development of diabetes as contributing factors.

“While young women generally benefit from the protective effects of hormones,” explains Dr Udyavar, “it is common to observe that if a young lady experiences heart problems, it can often be overlooked or misdiagnosed as conditions like acidity, gastric symptoms, or muscle pain.”

“Consequently, when chest pain occurs, there is a higher likelihood that the woman might not recognise it as a potential heart attack.”

Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/Rediff.com

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