Sudden attack: Doctors flag muted heart disease symptoms in women post Covid

KOLKATA: Symptoms of cardiac diseases among women — who tend to have more muted signs of a heart condition than men — have turned even more subtle after Covid, with many suffering sudden heart attacks without any warning signs or with symptoms that are almost unnoticeable, say doctors. Many of these women, who had contracted Covid-19 in the last 6-8 months, have succumbed to cardiac arrests.

Sudden heart attacks have been common among Covid patients between one and five weeks after contracting the virus. There are also scores who have succumbed to cardiac diseases within six months of recovering from Covid. While a majority of these patients have been men, women too might have been succumbing to post-Covid cardiovascular diseases but without symptoms, warned medics.

An analysis of Covid cases published in the journal ‘Nature Medicine’ showed that Covid survivors are 55% more likely to experience a serious cardiovascular event after recovery.

A 52-year-old Alipore woman was undergoing a check-up at an EM Bypass hospital weeks after recovering from Covid when she suddenly felt mild chest pain. An ECG revealed she has had a ‘myocardial infarction’ or a heart attack for which she was immediately admitted. She had no prior symptoms.

A 45-year-old techie from Tollygunge suffered a sudden bout of chest pain in the office, two months after she had recovered from Covid. She died of cardiac failure in a hospital the next day.

For men, chest pain is a common symptom but for women, the symptoms are more subtle and can include pain or aching in the chest and in the upper arm, said BM Birla Heart Research Centre director of cardiology Anjan Siotia. “Unusual fast heartbeats, nausea, and fatigue could be the other symptoms for women,” said Siotia. He added that post-Covid, women are frequently falling victim to this.

According to BM Birla Heart Research Centre director of cardiology Anjan Siotia, post-menopause, women get heart diseases, like cardiomyopathy or dilated heart, where the heart muscles become weak even without blockage in the heart artery.

“This condition can be fatal if not treated properly. Such a condition can happen without any specific reason; a viral fever or a genetic anomaly can lead to this,” he said. Women have a lower BMI than men and their cardiac arteries and hearts are smaller, says Fortis Hospital cardiothoracic surgeon KM Mandana. So, about of Covid is more likely to affect women’s cardiac health than men.

“Till menopause, women are better protected against heart ailments than men due to their hormones. After menopause, both are at an equal risk but fewer women have heart diseases. But those with cardiac artery disease are worse off than men. Covid has made more women vulnerable to CAD,” said Mandana. Cardiovascular diseases in women are slowly gaining epidemic proportions due to high LDL cholesterol levels and BMI and Covid have hastened its onset, says Kunal Sarkar, vice-chairman and senior consultant cardiac surgeon, Medica Superspecialty.

“More women are transitioning from the cardio-protective pear shape body to apple shape with increasing waistlines and truncal obesity, putting them at risk of heart diseases. Smoking, low physical activity, diabetes, high BP, and other lifestyle factors cause fat redistribution in women and accelerate their risk of CVDs,” Sarkar said.

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