Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of women in Singapore • Women aged 50 years or older with at least one risk factor(s) should go for cardiac screening.
Singapore, 28 September 2012 – Cardiovascular diseases are claiming 17.3 millions lives each year, and the number is surely rising over the years. World Heart Day was started in 2000 and has been continually celebrated annually on 29 September to inform people around the world that premature deaths from cardiovascular disease and stroke can be prevented.
Unknown to the mass public, cardiovascular disease (coronary heart disease and stroke) is actually the leading cause of death among women in Singapore. Approximately one in four women will die of a heart attack or stroke in Singapore, and the incidents are higher in Western populations where heart attack kills six times as many women as breast cancer, which is the commonest type of cancer in women. Yet, the general population still perceives coronary heart disease as a man’s problem.
Dr Raymond Lee, Cardiologist from Pacific Heart Centre, said, “It is generally true that women are at lower risk of coronary heart disease compared to men, likely due to the protective effects of the hormone oestrogen on the arteries of the heart. However, once they are post-menopausal, the incidence of coronary heart disease in women increases rapidly; by 70 years of age, the incidence becomes almost equal between men and women.”
Women also present different symptoms than men. The typical symptoms of chest pain (angina) are less common in women, they often complain of abdominal discomfort, shortness of breath on exertion or fatigue instead. “Women may not identify their initial symptoms with coronary heart disease and therefore may not seek medical advice promptly, resulting in late presentation and therefore a worse.
World Heart Federation 2012 2 Report on Registration of Births and Deaths 2008 by the Registry of Births and Deaths, Immigration and Checkpoints Authority Singapore 3 Women’s Heart Foundation 2007.
1outcome,” Dr Lee added, “because of the non-specific nature of their symptoms, doctors may also misdiagnose them as not having coronary heart disease.”
We are also beginning to see women develop coronary heart disease at a younger age, even in their 40’s and 50’s. This is largely due to the adoption of unhealthy lifestyle habits, especially smoking. Unhealthy diet and a sedentary lifestyle are also causing women to becoming obese and developing diabetes, further increasing their risk of coronary heart disease.
Prevention is always the best cure. Current guidelines recommend that women aged 50 years or older who have at least one of the following risk factors (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, smoking, physical inactivity and family history of heart attack) should consider going for cardiac screening, even if there are no symptoms.