More articles by

Swagata Yadavar
Swagata Yadavar


Unhealthy lifestyle, poor diet put women at risk

  • Risk factors for women:
    Taking oral contraceptives
    Bad Lipid profile
    BMI more than 22.9

Most people believe heart disease is a man's problem and that women are less likely to suffer from it. Truth is, heart disease is the leading cause of death among women and one in every four women dies of heart disease. Further, since pre-menopausal women had hormonal protection against heart disease, they were assumed to be safer. However, poor lifestyle and dietary choices have exposed them, too, to heart disease.

According to the Saffolalife Study 2015, more than 60 per cent of urban India females from 30 to 45 years are vulnerable to cardiovascular diseases (CVDs). The study was conducted in 10 leading metro and non-metro cities in India on 1,299 urban women. The study, which is in its fourth year, studied various risk factors leading to heart disease.

One major risk factor for heart disease is increased abdominal fat, that is, bigger waistlines. Dr Brian Pinto, Chief of Cardiology at Holy Family Hospital, Mumbai, says, “An increasing number of women are transitioning from the cardio-protective pear shape body to apple shape with increasing waistlines and truncal obesity, eventually putting them at risk of heart diseases. In addition, smoking, low levels of physical activity, diabetes, high BP and other lifestyle factors are responsible for fat redistribution in women while accelerating their risk of CVDs.” Which explains why, 86 per cent of women who face the risk of CVD were also found to have abnormal BMI, 74 per cent have increased belly fat, while 43 per cent have increased waistline (waist-to-hip ratio more than 0.85).

What is driving this trend are unhealthy eating habits, increased intake of cheese and foods rich in trans fat and late dinner, say experts. Niti Desai, Dietician and health coach, Mumbai, says, “Not all fats are bad for the body, saturated fats and trans fat are the ones we must avoid. Yet most of Indians tend to snack on namkeen, biscuits, khari and baked products which are high in trans fat.”

The study showed 85 per cent women with CVD risk have preserved food three days a week while, 74 per cent consume food like cheese, food rich in trans fats twice a week and 60 per cent women consume sweetened beverages twice a week. Further, poor lifestyle choices have also played a role in increasing the risk—30 per cent have dinner post 10pm.

Pinto and Desai stressed that only increased awareness, better lifestyle and dietary changes can help women decrease the risk of cardiovascular diseases. “Everyone above the age of 20 years should know their lipid profile numbers, blood pressure and BMI and make exercise part of their life” says Pinto.

India findings on CVD risk:

Higher proportions of women with CVD risk in Pune, Chennai and Hyderabad have increased waistlines (Waist-to-hip ratio) as compared to women in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Kolkata.

88 per cent of women with CVD risk in Kolkata have late night dinners.

Women in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore are more at risk of being affected by CVDs, compared to their counterparts in Kolkata.

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The Week

Topics : #health

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