Behind the Red Dress

Posted on Feb 04, 2020

It is assumed that heart disease affects mostly men. But according to the World Health Federation, heart disease is the #1 killer in women globally, killing more women than all types of cancers, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria combined.

In reality, it is more difficult to diagnose heart disease in women for several reasons.  One probable reason is that women do not perceive heart disease as a threat to their health. They usually ignore common complaints such as neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, pain in the arms, and even simple sweating. All of these symptoms commonly attribute to fatigue.

What they don’t realize is that, these are common symptoms of heart disease. Too often, women, especially mothers, prioritize taking care of their loved ones and forget about themselves. These reasons prevent women from having their hearts checked resulting in delay in diagnosis. Because of their reluctance to submit to evaluation, some women get diagnosed late when they are older and weaker which makes treatment more difficult, and prognosis worse.  

The first step toward heart health is to know your cardiovascular risk profile based on your risk factors. A risk factor is a condition or a habit that makes a person more likely to develop a disease or worsen an existing disease.  There are risk factors you can do something about and some you cannot change. The modifiable risk factors are: high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes/prediabetes, smoking, being overweight or obese, physical inactivity, and unhealthy diet. 

The risk factors that you cannot change are age and family history.  For women, age becomes a risk factor when they reach 55 years of age. During menopause, women are more prone to develop heart disease because of decreased estrogen.  Having a family member who had a heart disease also adds to your risk score. The number of risk factors you have will make up your cardiovascular risk profile. Simple tests like an ECG, blood test for sugar and cholesterol plus a consultation with your doctor can give a lot of information about your cardiovascular risk profile, and the appropriate steps that you can take to decrease your risk for heart disease.

As part of the Philippine Heart Month celebration this February, the Heart Institute of St. Luke’s Medical Center, through its Womens’ Heart Health Unit (WHHU), celebrates Wear Red Day on February 7, 2020. This is an annual activity conducted together with its international counterparts in the US, Europe and Asia where women are encouraged to wear red to bring attention to women’s heart health. 

The ‘Red Dress” has been adopted as a symbol to build awareness that women are also at risk for heart disease.  Red is the color of health, life and vibrancy, but also of warning. 
We encourage women to take care of their hearts. To learn more about heart diseases in women, visit St. Luke’s Medical Center Global City – Women’s Heart Health Unit or call 8789 7700 local 5104 to book an appointment with a St. Luke’s Cardiologist.