One busy day, you woke up late and skip your breakfast (again) so that you can quickly switch on your laptop for meeting. Frustration and anxiety are building up in you with quick shallow breathing. Your heart is pounding violently. In medical terms it is refer to as palpitation, a very unpleasant feeling. Have you heard of “fight or flight response? These reaction in our body when triggered by stress or an on-going stress situation, releases hormone such as cortisol. Cortisol level can increase two to five-fold during stressful period 3. High levels of cortisol from long-term stress can increase blood cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar, and blood pressure. Imagine yourself being in this mode of “fight or flight response” on and off a couple of times in day. This eventually will affect our mood, sleep, appetite and lastly our beloved heart.
Negative response to stress
Stress and hormones play a role in women heart health. For women, stress can make the transition through menopause more challenging such as hot flushes, nights sweats and sleep pattern getting worse. Women’s fluctuating levels of estrogen throughout their lifespan is major contributor resulted in a misperception that females are ‘protected’ against cardiovascular disease.
Women at higher risk heart disease than men
A 2017 survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA) showed that women reported significantly higher levels of overall stress than men. Women have smaller hearts and coronary vessels than men. The Statistics on cause of death in Malaysia, 2020 reported that heart disease is the no.2 killer in women while breast cancer ranked fourth. According to study, cardiovascular disease develops 7 to 10 years later in women than in men1. Heart disease does not discriminate, however there are several risk factors that are known to be unique for women. Many women are not aware when estrogen level decline drastically after menopause it increases the risk of getting heart disease. Estrogen keep blood vessels flexible, which means they can relax and expand to accommodate blood flow. Nevertheless, women who experience high blood pressure or diabetes during pregnancy might be at higher risk. Well, women regardless of any age should not take this lightly. Besides, women with family history of heart disease, poor diet and lack of physical activity have a negative impact on your heart.
Heart attack in women might be diagnosed less often because women symptoms differs from men. Although the most common heart attack symptom is the same as in men such as chest pain, pressure or discomfort that lasts more than few minutes. However, chest pain is not noticeable symptoms particularly in women who get it more often when resting or asleep.
Women are more likely to have heart attack symptoms unrelated to chest pain, such as:
• Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort
• Shortness of breath
• Pain in one or both arms
• Nausea or vomiting
• Sweating
• Dizziness
• Unusual fatigue
• Indigestion
Watch out for the above symptoms and never take it lightly. Traditionally heart disease prevention markers such as cholesterol level, blood pressure and blood glucose reading would serve as a good benchmark when looking out for those common symptoms. Heart disease has always been perceived as an aging & hereditary disease over the years. You may think that there is nothing you can do stop it. But the good news is there are things you can do to delay, prevent, and reverse your risk.
Adopt a heart-healthy diet and lifestyle tips
• Nourish Your Heart. The heart pumps blood to send oxygen and nutrients to vital organs in our body. A well-nourish heart will do its best without burden. Go red- eat more red colour food such as strawberry (antioxidants), tomatoes (lycopene), red apples, cranberries, cherries, beetroot and red dates. Heart associations around the world encourage Omega-3 fatty acids such salmon, mackerel, sardines, avocado, walnut, chia seeds and hemp seeds to be include in our diet. The recommended intake for Malaysians is 670mg of omega-3 rich food on a daily basis including some fibre-rich fruits, vegetables and whole grains too.

• Listen to your heart. The human heart is one of the first organs to form and function. Be thankful and practise gratitude towards your heart, who serves you from the day you were conceived in your mother’s womb.

• Follow your heart. Spend time and connect with the ones you love on a regular basis. It is advisable to schedule body check up on regular basis, starting in your early twenties.

• Tone you heart. Your heart is an organ that’s largely made up of muscle. Get some cardio workout base on your individual physical level to strengthen and build your heart muscle. If you are experiencing any form any joints issue or is a heart patient, you may go for low impact workout. Any workout is better than no workout.

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