A new study suggested that non-conventional factors like sleep problems, fatigue, and work stress can considerably upsurge cardiovascular risk. However, past studies have shown various other changeable risk factors involved in heart attack and stroke. They include physical inactivity, arterial hypertension, diabetes, smoking, high cholesterol, and obesity.
According to this study, non-conventional risks are increasing more sharply in women than men—the study reported at the European Stroke Organisation (ESO) Conference on Wednesday.
Women showed increased non-traditional risk factors for stroke and heart attack
Dr. Martin Hansel is one of the Neurologists at the University Hospital Zurich. He is also an investigator of this research. He said that usually, men are considered more prone to heart attack and stroke than women. However, the study reported that although men were more probably obese and smoke than women, women showed a significant rise in the non-conventional risk factors for heart attack and stroke. These factors were feeling sleepy and tired, sleep disorders, and work stress.
He further added that this upsurge corresponds to a range of women who were working full time. While describing the reason behind this, Hansel said that it might involve various cultural and social aspects and specific health demands in women’s lives. These aspects include household responsibilities, juggling work, and many others. However, people may not consider these factors in their everyday busy lives, Hansel added.
The study used data from the Swiss Health Survey
The study involved extensive data in the Swiss Health Survey, consisting of 22,000 individuals. Researchers compared all data of men and women for 2007, 2012, and 2017 of this survey. They found an upcoming alarming situation with a remarkable increase in the number of reported women. These women reported several non-conventional strokes and heart attack risk factors—this tendency increased with increasing the number of women working full-time from 2007 to 2017. In 2007, this number was only 38%, which increased to 44% in 2017.
In general, the figure for reporting pressure at work increased during the five years from 2012 to 2017. And it rose from 59% to 66% in both genders. Similarly, the number of people who reported fatigue and feeling tired increased from 23% to 29%. Among them, 33% were women, and 26% were men.
Generally, in both genders, the cases of reporting stress at work increased from 59% in 2012 to 66% in 2017, and those who reported feeling tired rose from 23 percent to 29 percent.
During the same time, reported sleep disorders have risen from 24% to 29%. Additionally, about 8% of women experienced a relatively faster increase in severe sleep disorders than men, only 5%.
Women showed stable conventional risk factors of cardiovascular disease
However, the study also identified the effects of conventional risk factors, such as diabetes, cholesterol level, obesity, smoking, and blood pressure. They found that these factors remained stable during the same period. For example, about 18% of participants suffered from high cholesterol levels, 5% diabetes, and 27% blood pressure. On the other hand, smoking went down from nearly 10.5 to 9.5 cigarettes a day, and obesity increased to 11%. However, these two factors were found more common in men than women.
What are strokes and their types?
A stroke occurs when neurons are deprived of nutrients and oxygen due to disrupting the blood supply to the brain.
There are two reasons behind these disruptions. Firstly, it may be a hemorrhagic stroke in which a blood vessel in the brain bursts. Secondly, it may be an ischaemic stroke, which is caused due to the blood clotting in the brain leading to the blockage. Ischaemic strokes are more likely to occur than hemorrhagic strokes.
Both women and men have strokes, but women are more likely to bear the long-lasting problem of strokes. One partly explanation for why stroke is more common in women is that women live longer. However, several other gender factors are also involved.
Facts about stroke and women
Women carry more problems of stroke, and the statistics of women stroke include:
- There are more females than males who die of stroke.
- Women usually suffer from stroke in old age; thus, its effect is more distressing, resulting in more disability.
- Women caretakers for patients with stroke are more likely to face health issues, including stroke and depression themselves.
Causes of stroke in women
In women, an increased risk of stroke can lead to various health conditions:
- Migraines with visual aura, including difficulty focusing on things, blind spots, and flashing lights.
- High blood pressure
- Oral contraceptive pill
Women have various gender-specific risk factors and a higher risk of lifelong stroke. Pregnancy could be a risk factor for stroke, especially in case of high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia. Although stroke is not expected during pregnancy, women are at a higher risk up to three months after birth and in the third trimester.
Because some oral contraceptive pills and hormonal changes during pregnancy can increase the risk of blood clots, some women get strokes during this time.
Women mostly have a particular type of bleeding in the brain called a subarachnoid hemorrhage. They are also more likely to rupture their blood vessels, called cerebral aneurysms that can involve increasing stroke risk.
Common causes of a heart attack in women
In addition to various general causes, such as smoking, physical inactivity, family history, history of early heart attack, and inflammatory diseases, women can also have a heart attack due to gender-specific risk factors. Here are some of them:
1. Diabetes. Females having diabetes are at a greater risk of heart attack than males. Additionally, diabetes can also change your feeling of pain; thus, the risk of getting a silent heart attack without symptoms is increased.
2. Depression and mental stress. Depression and stress can significantly affect women’s hearts. A depressed woman faces difficulties in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and follows a suggested action.
3. Menopause. Estrogen low levels after menopause are a significant risk of several diseases developing in small blood vessels.
4. Pregnancy complications. Diabetes or high blood pressure during pregnancy can increase the risk of long-term diseases. This situation also increases the risk of getting a heart attack in women.
How can you reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack in women?
Lifestyle changes can go a long way in preventing stroke in women. These include:
- Keeping your body physically active or exercising
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Quitting smoking
- Eating a range of healthy foods
- Limiting salty, fatty, and sugary takeaway snacks and meals.
- Eating a variety of whole grains, fruit, and vegetables. Using healthy protein sources, such as seafood and fish, eating legumes, such as lentils and beans, taking nuts and seeds regularly in the diet. A heart-healthy diet also includes a small amount of lean poultry and eggs. Additionally, limit red meat to only 1-3 times per week and make sure that meat is lean.
- Taking cheese, unflavored milk, and yogurt into the diet. And reduce fat varieties If a woman has high blood cholesterol.
- Eating healthy fat with seeds, nuts, olives, avocados and using their oils for cooking purposes.
- Using spices and herbs for flavor as a replacement for salt.
- Drinking water in a large amount
- Avoiding salt in the food. Using only ‘low-salt, ‘no added salt,’ or ‘salt-reduced foods if you have a choice.
- Limiting alcohol intake
However, more awareness is needed on the specific types of risk factors that affect women. For further advice, people should talk to their doctor about stroke in women.
First aid for a heart attack and stroke emergency
Heart attack and stroke both are life-threatening medical emergencies. For early treatment, the patient must get to the hospital as quickly as possible.
In the case of stroke, there is an easy way to identify the most common symptoms of stroke, and to know what you should do in an emergency is to remember the word ‘FAST.’
FAST stands for:
- Facial weakness – check the face of the patient and see if the mouth has dropped
- Arm weakness – ask the patient to lift both the arms
- Speech difficulties – check if the patient’s speech is inaudible and whether he understands you
- Time – it is time to call a doctor!
If a person around you immediately experiences any of these symptoms, get him to a hospital as quickly as possible.
According to a recent study, non-conventional risk factors, such as fatigue, sleep problems, and work stress, can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke more considerably in women than men. In addition to these non-conventional factors, several other changeable risk factors are also involved in these diseases. These factors are high cholesterol, arterial hypertension, smoking, physical inactivity, obesity, diabetes. On the other hand, the study also showed that several conventional risk factors, such as diabetes, cholesterol level, smoking, obesity, and blood pressure, remained stable in women than in men.