In a meta-analysis of over 850,000 individuals the relative risk of Cardio Vascular Diseases was 44% greater in women with diabetes than in similarly affected men.
Moreover, the cardiovascular risk in people with diabetes is two to three times higher than those without the disease.
Meaning that it is highly possible that the number of fatalities may increase in the near future, given that diabetes cases are climbing in Pakistan.
“Gender matters in the manifestation of heart diseases,” said Dr Saira Bukhari, an assistant professor of cardiology in AKU Medical College’s Department of Medicine. “Awareness of the differences in the clinical presentation of heart diseases among men and women is key in tackling the burden of disease in the country.”
But the good news is that you can lower your risk for diabetes and heart disease and improve your heart health by changing certain lifestyle habits.
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How Does Diabetes Affect Heart Health in Women?
Diabetes can affect heart health in a number of ways. High blood sugar levels can damage the blood vessels and nerves that control the heart, leading to a range of complications, such as:
- Coronary artery disease: This occurs when the arteries that supply blood to the heart become narrow or blocked, which can cause chest pain, heart attacks, and other serious complications.
- Heart failure: This occurs when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs, leading to fatigue, shortness of breath, and other symptoms.
- Peripheral artery disease: This occurs when the arteries that supply blood to the arms and legs become narrow or blocked, which can cause pain, numbness, and other symptoms.
Women with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing these and other heart-related complications than men with diabetes, and they are also more likely to die from these complications.
Why Are Women with Diabetes at Higher Risk of Heart Disease?
There are several factors that contribute to the increased risk of heart disease in women with diabetes.
Women tend to develop diabetes at a later age than men, and they often have other health conditions that can worsen the effects of diabetes, such as obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
Women with diabetes are also more likely to experience depression, which can affect their overall health and increase their risk of developing heart disease.
Finally, women with diabetes tend to have smaller blood vessels than men, which can make it harder for blood to flow through their arteries. This can lead to the buildup of plaque, which can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
“In addition to late presentation, treatment in women is less aggressive which results in poorer outcomes,” said Professor Zainab Samad, chair of AKU’s Department of Medicine. “Men and women may also have different preferences for their clinical care, and this has implications all the way from how facilities are set up to who offers clinical care. This is why it is important to have a gendered lens on diagnosis and management of cardiovascular disease across the continuum of care.”
Tips for Managing Diabetes and Reducing the Risk of Heart Disease
Fortunately, there are many things that women with diabetes can do to manage their condition and reduce their risk of heart disease. Some tips include:
- Monitor blood sugar levels regularly: This can help you identify any changes in your blood sugar levels and adjust your medication or diet as needed.
- Eat a healthy diet: Focus on eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources. Avoid sugary drinks and processed foods as much as possible.
- Exercise regularly: Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. This can help improve your blood sugar levels, reduce your risk of heart disease, and improve your overall health and well-being.
- Manage stress: Stress can affect blood sugar levels and increase the risk of heart disease. Find ways to manage stress, such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises.
- Take medications as prescribed: If you have been prescribed medication to manage your diabetes, be sure to take it as directed by your healthcare provider. This can help keep your blood sugar levels under control and reduce your risk of heart disease.
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Improving Heart Health & Lowering the Risk of Diabetes in Pakistani Women
Maintaining good heart health and preventing diabetes is important for everyone, but it is especially crucial for Pakistani women who are at a higher risk of developing these conditions.
Here are some tips to help improve heart health and lower the risk of diabetes in Pakistani women:
- Maintain a healthy diet: A healthy diet is essential for good heart health and diabetes prevention. Pakistani women should aim to consume a diet that is low in saturated fat, sugar, and salt, and high in fibre, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Traditional Pakistani foods such as lentils, chickpeas, and spinach are good sources of fibre and protein and should be included in the diet.
- Exercise regularly: Regular exercise can help lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Pakistani women should aim to get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, cycling, or swimming, on most days of the week. Exercise can also help control blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Obesity is a major risk factor for both heart disease and diabetes. Pakistani women should aim to maintain a healthy weight by eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly.
- Quit smoking: Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease and diabetes and can worsen the complications of these conditions. Pakistani women who smoke should quit smoking as soon as possible.
- Manage stress: Stress can contribute to the development of heart disease and diabetes. Pakistani women should learn to manage stress through techniques such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises.
- Regular check-ups: Regular check-ups with a healthcare professional can help detect and manage any risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. Pakistani women should aim to get regular check-ups, including blood pressure and blood sugar checks.
By following these tips, Pakistani women can improve their heart health and lower their risk of developing diabetes. It is important to make these lifestyle changes a part of daily routine to reap the benefits in the long run.
Stay safe and stay tuned to WOW360.