Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women. The risk of Heart disease can appear in a person anytime from birth to old age.
Heart problems in infants and children are called Congenital Heart Defects. They are structural problems with the heart present at birth. They result when a mishap occurs during heart development soon after conception and often before the mother is aware that she is pregnant. Defects range in severity from simple problems, such as "holes" between chambers of the heart, to very severe malformations, such as complete absence of one or more chambers or valves.
Congenital heart disease is the most common type of major birth defect. They include a variety of defects in the heart tissue or valves due to improper fetal growth or problems in the closure of fetal vessels after birth.
Not all heart diseases in children are congenital. Some can even occur due to heart infections during childhood. This type of heart disease is called acquired; examples include Kawasaki disease and rheumatic fever. Children also can be born with or develop heart rate problems such as slow, fast, or irregular heartbeats, known as "arrhythmias".
The fetal heart is not identical to a baby or adult heart, which differ in size. The fetal circulation does not include the pulmonary vessels as the fetus receives oxygen from the mother’s circulation and does not use its lungs. A hole called the foramen ovale in the atrial septum, the wall between the right and left atria, allows blood to pass directly from the right side of the heart to the left.
The fetal heart also has an extra vessel alongside the great vessels, the aorta and pulmonary artery, which align and twist around each other during gestation. The vessel is called the ductus arteriosus.
A left to right shunt is a passage allowing blood in the heart to bypass being pumped through the aorta and returns to the right side. The most common types of congenital heart disease are left to right shunts caused by holes in the ventricular septum due to defects in the membrane along the intraventricular ridge. The holes usually close spontaneously throughout childhood.
Another left to right shunt is the improper closing of the foramen ovale. When a baby takes its first breath of air outside the womb, a flap closes over the foramen ovale due to the pressure. If this does not occur then blood is able to seep through the atrial septal defect.
A right to left shunt bypasses the pulmonary circulation and results in what is referred to as a “blue baby,” that is a lack of oxygen to the body resulting in cyanosis, and the pink tinge is lost from the baby’s complexion. The shunt occurs as either a transposition of the great vessels or the Tetralogy of Fallot, which is the most common cyanotic congenital heart disease.
The main cause of Congenital Heart Disease is presumed to be genetic, only a few genes have been discovered that have been linked to the presence of heart defects. The ingestion of some drugs and the occurrence of some infections during pregnancy can also cause such defects.
Heart disease is generally considered an older women's condition, but in reality, it is still a leading cause of death among younger women. Women in their 30s, 40s and 50s may have a lot to learn about heart disease and its danger signs.
Most women delay in going to the hospital either because they don’t recognize the symptoms and relate it to the heart or feared that the symptoms were not real.
Every young women needs to know the risk factors, signs and symptoms of the heart. They might experience not only typical but also atypical symptoms, and they need to be aware of their own risk factors, including family history. Prevention and modification of risk factors is important for young women.
The older a woman gets, the more likely she is to get heart disease.
The risk of Cardiovascular Disease increases with age, there is a need for an increased awareness of the importance of CVD as a major public health issue for older women. Women who are also in their postmenopausal stage in life have a great risk of heart disease.
Older women should give more importance to the heart related risk factors such as high blood pressure, cholesterol levels, diabetes, obesity, lifestyle factors in terms of activity and diet, etc. At no cost should one neglect the slightest of the symptoms of heart disease.
A regular checkup is a must as one grows older.