Heart failure is a chronic and progressive medical condition in which the heart’s ability to pump blood efficiently is compromised. It occurs when the heart muscles become weak or stiff, preventing the heart from effectively circulating oxygen and nutrients to the body’s organs and tissues. While heart failure affects over 1 percent of the adult population in India, it largely goes undiagnosed.
Heart failure is often misunderstood as a heart attack, which is a sudden blockage of blood flow to the heart muscle whereas heart failure is a chronic condition characterized by weakened pumping ability. While heart failure can affect both men and women, there are specific factors that may impact women differently. To safeguard their heart health, women should be aware of their risk factors and prioritize their well-being.
Seeking guidance from medical professionals can help create personalized strategies for early detection and prevention of heart failure. By recognizing these risk factors and taking proactive steps, women can reduce their chances of developing heart failure and live healthier lives.
Dr Shraddha Bhure, Medical Director, Boehringer Ingelheim India explains risk factors that increase the likelihood of heart failure in women.
Factors That Increase Risk Of Heart Failure In Women
Women face an increased risk of heart failure as they get older, particularly after menopause. Research has shown a possible connection between early menopause and higher chances of heart failure and atrial fibrillation. A recent study in 2022, involving over 1.4 million women, revealed that the risk of new-onset heart failure may be higher in younger menopausal women. Women who experienced premature menopause had a 33 percent higher risk of heart failure compared to those who went through menopause after the age of 40.
Further, compared with women aged ≥50 years at menopause, those aged 45−49, 40−44, and <40 years at menopause, showed a progressively increasing trend for the risk of developing heart failure later in life. Women must understand how age contributes to the risk and take proactive measures, such as regular check-ups and adopting heart-healthy habits.
Women with diabetes face a high risk of developing heart failure, which may be possibly even greater as compared to men. Studies reveal that women with type 1 diabetes may have a 47 percent higher risk of heart failure than men, while women with type 2 diabetes may have a 9 percent higher risk.
High blood sugar levels can have harmful effects on heart health, emphasizing the need for diligent diabetes management. To minimize the risk of heart failure, women with diabetes should prioritize maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, adopting a balanced diet, engaging in regular physical activity, and following their diabetes management plan set in place by their doctor.
High Blood Pressure
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, poses a significant risk for heart failure in women. Interestingly, hypertension may be slightly more prevalent in women, particularly in older age groups. Moreover, hypertension may confer a 3-fold increased risk of developing heart failure in women, as compared to a 2-fold higher risk in men. Women with uncontrolled high blood pressure are especially vulnerable to developing heart failure. It is crucial for women to regularly monitor their blood pressure and adhere to the prescribed medication plan to effectively manage their levels.
Research indicates that overweight women have a 46% higher risk, while obese women face a striking 112% higher risk compared to women with a normal body mass index (BMI). After menopause, women may experience an increase in belly fat, which further contributes to this risk. Women must prioritize maintaining a healthy weight, even modest weight loss can help reduce the risk of heart failure. By making positive lifestyle changes, women can actively protect their hearts and promote overall well-being.
Smoking / Tobacco Consumption
Women who smoke or are exposed to second-hand smoke face an elevated risk of heart failure. Smoking, or tobacco consumption in any form, wreaks havoc on the cardiovascular system and contributes to a range of heart-related complications. To enhance overall heart health and reduce the risk of heart failure, quitting smoking or tobacco consumption, and minimizing exposure to second-hand smoke are crucial steps to take.
While the risk factors for heart failure can vary between men and women, women must be aware of their unique risk factors. By understanding and monitoring these factors closely, women can detect heart failure early and improve their health outcomes.