With heart-related diseases becoming the leading cause of death among women globally, primarily in populous countries, researchers have suggested a set of actions to deal with the crisis.
Cardiovascular complications, including heart disease and stroke, account for 35 percent of deaths in women every year. According to data from Global Burden of Disease, there were an estimated 6.1 million deaths from cardiovascular disease in women in 1990, rising to 8.94 million in 2019.
“Cardiovascular disease in women remains under-studied, under-recognized, under-diagnosed and under-treated globally, said Professor Roxana Mehran from Mount Sinai Medical Center in the U.S.
To reduce such deaths, the all-female-led commission suggested aligning efforts with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which aim to prevent premature deaths from non-communicable diseases by one-third by 2030. The team made the suggestion in the first-ever global report on cardiovascular disease in women published in The Lancet on Monday.
They came up with 10 ambitious recommendations to tackle inequities in diagnosis, treatment and prevention to reduce cardiovascular problems in women.
The recommendations include educating health care providers and patients on early detection to prevent heart disease in women, scaling up heart health programs in highly populated and underdeveloped regions and prioritizing sex-specific research on heart disease in women and intervention strategies.
A vast geographical difference in cardiovascular diseases has become a major challenge in dealing with the crisis. Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates have a high prevalence of the disease. Meanwhile, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela have the lowest number of such cases.
Globally, cardiovascular disease in women has declined by 4.3 percent since 1990. However, it’s on the rise in countries with a large population, including China with a 10 percent increase, Indonesia with 7 percent and India with 3 percent.
The highest mortality rates due to cardiovascular disease are in Central Asia, Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, Oceania and Central Sub-Saharan Africa, where age-standardized mortality exceeds 300 deaths per 100,000 women, the report said.
In contrast, high-income Asia Pacific, Australasia, Western Europe, Andean Latin America and high-income North America recorded the lowest rates, with fewer than 130 deaths per 100,000 women.
Under such a scenario, making permanent, global improvements to the care of women with cardiovascular disease requires coordinated efforts and partnerships involving policymakers, clinicians, researchers and the wider community, said Mehran.
Leading causes triggering cardiovascular problems among women
According to researchers, high blood pressure, body mass index and cholesterol levels have started a wave of cardiovascular disease among women. Sex-specific risk factors, such as premature menopause and pregnancy-related disorders have also contributed to the problem. Unfortunately, this factor remains widely unrecognized.
“While some risk factors for cardiovascular disease are similar for women and men, women are more likely to suffer from health disparities due to cultural, political or socioeconomic factors,” said Professor Bairey Merz of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
“For instance, some social or religious norms – such as restrictions on participation in sport and physical activities – can contribute to cardiovascular disease in women, highlighting an urgent need for culturally appropriate initiatives that are tailored to different regions and populations.”
The commission also raised concern over increasing heart attacks and smoking rates among young women. In the past decade, 53 of 195 countries and territories recorded significant decreases in the prevalence of smoking among men. But only 32 countries managed to cut down the smoking rate among women.
Equally important is the inclusion of most vulnerable populations globally, including women from minority or indigenous populations and those whose roles in society are strongly defined by traditional or religious norms, said the report.
“This commission’s work is both a starting point and a call to action to mobilize and energize health care professionals, policymakers – and women themselves – to work toward a healthier future, said Professor Liesl Zuhlke of Red Cross Children’s and Groote Schuur Hospitals and the University of Cape Town in South Africa.
(Cover: A replica of a human heart, constructed using gel, is shown at the European Society of Cardiology meeting venue in Amsterdam, September 2, 2013. /Reuters)