Heart of a woman, how and why to protect it with healthy habits

With menopause, women become vulnerable to heart disease. The risk factors to keep under control

In times of Covid-19, there is a risk of putting aside the attention that every woman owes to her heart and the cardiovascular system. And it is a mistake. Because prevention is fundamental for female well-being: if it is true that in men these diseases begin to manifest themselves already in the fourth decade of life, while in women the incidence is low before menopause, after the age of 60 the incidence in women exceeds the male one.

This was remembered by the experts of the Italian Society for Cardiovascular Prevention (SIPREC), which promoted and organized the Italian Day for Cardiovascular Prevention.

The differences between man and woman

The woman has a different cardiovascular system than man and has a smaller heart and blood vessels. Given the importance of procreation, it is protected from major cardiovascular events (heart attack, stroke), but only until menopause, when it loses its hormonal shield and becomes vulnerable to these diseases like humans, with a delay of about 10 years. This figure, combined with the increase in life expectancy, must lead women to greater prevention.

"Too often the woman has been neglected – underlines Maria Grazia Modena, SIPREC Councilor and Full Professor of Cardiology at the University of Modena. Cardiovascular diseases affect women three times more than all female cancers combined (breast, uterus, lung). For this reason, women of all ages should be taught to pay attention to the heart, starting with a greater sensitivity to lifestyle to protect their bodies.

In Europe, and similarly in Italy, the women who today die from cardiovascular problems (stroke and heart attack) are 43% against 38% of men. To condition these increasing data are the various risk factors that characterize women, which can be divided into classic, exclusive and peculiar. The first are the same as in men: smoking, high cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes, lack of movement, obesity, incorrect nutrition.

However, the woman adds exclusive risk factors linked to her biological life: first of all, menopause, which can become even more aggressive if premature, between the ages of 30 and 40; an early or late menarche; diseases such as hypertension or diabetes in pregnancy; polycystic ovary syndrome. Thirdly, there are the risk factors that are prevalent in women: autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma, myasthenia, thyroiditis have more impactful consequences for women ".

Attention to lifestyle

Covid-19 has changed our habits, especially in terms of nutrition and the possibility of regular physical activity, as well as obviously having an impact on the psychological condition and stress. A study published in March 2021 in the scientific journal "Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases" signed, among others, by Pietro Amedeo Modesti, Delegate SIPREC Toscana, is dedicated to the different gender impact of the lockdown on physical activity and lifestyle. and Full Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Florence. A series of data helps to understand the extent of cardiometabolic risk factors on the rise in the general population with particular reference to young women.

“The striking aspects of this study are essentially two – comments Modesti. First of all, it highlights that women, especially the younger ones, do less physical activity than men in general; the intense one is almost half. Men are more likely to play sports as a form of entertainment, companionship, competition. In spring 2020, men's physical activity collapses, deprived of the social component, while there is a greater tenacity and resilience of women, evidently more convinced of the beneficial effects ".

The second interesting point is the influence of "mental health", ie the mental disorders (anxiety, stress) created by the lockdown, which have had heavier effects on women, who have paid the consequences with a worse quality of sleep and with the going less of the intestine.

"The conclusions that can be drawn from these data consist in a substantial worsening of lifestyle, both for men and for women – concludes the expert. Incorrect behaviors such as reduced physical activity or mental health problems largely continued even in the later stages, although the limitations were lessened: this long period ended up affecting cardiovascular prevention ".

Read also

  • Covid-19, the criteria for vaccinating those with heart disease
  • Menopause, here are the "spies" that help predict when it will begin
  • Why you need to maintain healthy habits after menopause
  • Menopause, hot flashes, night sweats and heart risk
  • Diet in menopause: what to eat and what to avoid

Tag: Menstrual cycle Women Menopause

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