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Mom, That’s Heart Disease!

Posted May. 15, 2001 08:14,   


When children pin the carnation on their mothers’ bosom, it is unlikely that most of children would wonder about the health condition of their mothers’ heart.

Although the health of women’s breast reminds of breast cancer, more women die from heart disease than from breast cancer. Breast cancer was not in the list of ten causes for female death according to the 1999 statistics report. However, heart disease ranked the second (36.5 people out of 100000) right after stroke.

Heart disease is the top cause for death in the U.S. Heart disease patients are increasing in Korea due to the westernized eating habit. Hospitals’ patient statistics are indicative of this trend.

In 1995, 2884 diagnosed cases of women in their 40s were cardiovascular related disease in Samsung Seoul Hospital. The number of cases increased to 7397 last year. For the case of Seoul Chungang Hospital, only 6-10 women had operation due to the problem in heart arteries in 1990s. The number of cases increased to 123 women patients in 1995, and 311 last year. The misconception of heart disease as men’s disease is still at large.

- Characteristics of women’s heart disease

Major heart diseases of women, like men’s, are angina pectoris (constricted cardiovascular) and myocardial infarction (stop of cardio muscle). Quite a number of patients suffer from arrhythmia as well.

Men are much more likely to be stricken with heart disease in their prime middle years, whereas women tend to get it 10 to 20 years later. For most women, it is only after menopause that heart disease becomes a problem. Because women weight less than men, women tend not to pay attention to the heart related disease. Even though there is symptom, such as an acute pain on the left side, most people suspect breast cancer but not heart disease.

- Prevention of sudden death: Although it is hard to prevent vessel from constriction, it is important to prevent overweight through exercises and balanced meal plan. It is good to check the cholesterol level and blood pressure at least once a year for those who are over 40. If a member of the family had died from ‘anger related disease’ without particular reason, or if one develops symptoms of exhaustion, indigestion, breathing difficulty, and palpitation of heart, one should see a doctor.

If women start to take estrogen in their post-menopause period, they can prevent heart disease since estrogen helps the activity of cells in cardiovascular. However, one should take estrogen with progestagen due to the risk of uterine cancer. If one has already developed heart disease, she should consult the doctor because estrogen may aggravate the symptom. Taking one pill of aspirin per day can be helpful for the prevention of heart disease.

In terms of food, it is better to have well-balanced meals, such as tuna and mackerel, bean, peanut, walnut, barley, apple, and corn, instead of meat. Women with diabetes need to be extra careful about heart disease in comparison with men due to the high risk rate.

Lee Seong-Ju stein33@donga.com