AT least 20 persons are estimated to die in Jamaica from heart disease each day, resulting in many families having to restructure their lives as they grieve the loss of their loved ones.
While there is no data here to indicate just how many of those who die are women, statistics in the USA have identified this debilitating issue as the number one cause of death for females. President of the Heart Institute of the Caribbean, Dr Dainia Baugh, feels this could easily be the case in Jamaica as well.
"It is probably just as prevalent here as it is there, if not much more, because we have such problems with high blood pressure," she told All Woman.
"That is one of our biggest problems here, along with diabetes. This is because we tend to get heavy and we tend to then become diabetic," she said.
Apart from existing non-communicable diseases such hypertension and diabetes, there are several other things that easily put women at risk for heart disease. These include menopause, physical inactivity, obesity, a family history of cardiovascular disease, as well as cigarette smoking.
The distribution of your weight is also one of the ways to determine whether you are at risk for heart disease. Your risk increases if you are a woman with a waist above 35 inches. It is also important to note that you are still at risk even if you are a young woman, although most women usually suffer from heart diseases after menopause.
Dr Baugh noted that there are several things women can do to reduce their risk factors.
"Exercise is key and for people who smoke, they also need to stop smoking. [You] also need to make sure that you keep your blood pressure under good control," she said.
She pointed out that, "For those who have already been diagnosed with heart disease, you still are at risk for having another heart attack or worsening symptoms, so you need to make sure that you are taking your medications and following up with your doctors and following their advice."
Despite the high number of persons dying from heart diseases, it is oftentimes not given as much consideration as other health issues affecting women, such as breast cancer and diabetes, for example.
"I am not sure why," said Dr Baugh, "Because when you stock up all causes of death and disability combined, we don't get the number that die just from heart disease. So heart disease is the number one killer, it's the number one killer here in Jamaica and it's the number one killer worldwide."
Dr Baugh said it is important that women analyse their risks and get regular check-ups. This is even more essential if you are experiencing any one of the symptoms associated with heart diseases. These symptoms include nausea, fatigue, an unusually rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, cold sweat and pain in the chest, left arm or back.