Heart disease is a serious health issue affecting both men and women, but the advice to prevent it is often one-size-fits-all. The Age reports that according to Associate Professor Sarah Zaman, a cardiologist and researcher, the guidelines for heart health are primarily based on studies involving men. This approach does not consider the unique factors that can affect heart health differently in men and women.
In this post, we’ll go further into the study’s findings and look at the biological and lifestyle factors that can affect men’s and women’s heart health differently. We’ll also talk about prior studies on gender and heart disease, and how the latest findings add to the growing body of evidence showing a healthy lifestyle can help both men and women avoid heart disease. Furthermore, we will provide practical tips and recommendations for a heart-healthy lifestyle that can benefit both sexes and how healthcare providers can tailor their advice to suit the specific needs of their patients better.
Gender-based Findings of Diet on Heart Disease Risk
The study, which analysed the data from 16 different papers with over 722,000 female participants who were followed up an average of 12 years later, is the first ever to investigate the gender-based benefits of a Mediterranean-style diet on heart disease risk in women. The research was conducted in response to the growing awareness that men and women have different risk factors, symptoms, and types of heart attack and heart disease yet currently receive the same broad advice.
The study’s findings suggest that following a Mediterranean-style diet can reduce a woman’s risk of developing heart disease by 24% and their risk of dying by 23%. This reduction is similar in men, but it is the first study to examine women to start teasing out the differences.
Men vs Women Heart Health
When it comes to heart health, men and women differ significantly, and research has shown the following:
The onset of Heart Disease
Men tend to develop heart disease at a younger age than women, and their risk of developing the disease increases. Women, on the other hand, are more prone to develop heart disease after menopause.
Certain lifestyle factors such as smoking, physical inactivity, and unhealthy diet can affect men and women differently. For example, smoking is a more substantial risk factor for heart disease in women than men and physical inactivity is a more significant risk factor in women than men.
Additionally, women who consume a diet high in trans fats risk heart disease more than men who consume the same diet.
Symptoms that women may experience during a heart attack
It should be noted that the same symptoms can also occur in men. Still, women are more likely to have atypical symptoms or experience more subtle symptoms that are not immediately recognised as a heart attack. This can result in delayed diagnosis and treatment, with significant implications.
Chest pain or discomfort
Women may experience a squeezing, pressure, or fullness sensation in the centre of the chest. However, some women may have atypical symptoms, such as burning, stabbing, or sharp pain that may not be felt in the chest.
Pain in other areas of the body
Instead of the chest, women may feel pain or discomfort in the neck, jaw, shoulder, back, or arms.
Shortness of breath
Even without chest discomfort, women may experience shortness of breath. They may also feel lightheaded or dizzy.
Nausea or vomiting
Women may experience nausea, vomiting, or indigestion when having a heart attack.
Women may break out in a cold sweat or feel clammy during a heart attack.
Heart Health Hacks for Men
Preventing heart disease in men involves adopting healthy habits and lifestyle changes. Regular physical activity is crucial in preventing heart disease.
Men should strive for at least 150 minutes per week of aerobic exercise of moderate intensity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous intensity. Additionally, quitting smoking and limiting alcohol intake can help prevent heart disease. Men should also aim to maintain a healthy weight, eat a healthy diet low in saturated fats, and manage any underlying conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes through regular check-ups with their healthcare provider.
How Can Women Rule Over Heart Diseases?
Women have a unique set of risk factors for heart disease that can be influenced by factors that include:
- hormone therapy
Women must lead a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise and a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats. Additionally, women should be aware of their blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar levels, and any family history of heart disease to manage their risk effectively. Check-ups with a healthcare provider on a regular basis are also important.
By understanding how biological and lifestyle factors affect heart health differently in men and women, we can develop more targeted strategies for preventing heart disease. With this new knowledge, healthcare providers can provide more personalised advice to help men and women improve their heart health and decrease their chance of acquiring heart disease. It is crucial to continue researching and developing these tailored approaches to help people of all genders maintain healthy hearts and live longer healthier lives.
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