Do you know the leading cause of premature death in women? You would be forgiven for thinking it may be cancer related, but it is actually heart disease. In fact, women are five times more likely to die from heart disease than breast cancer.
Whilst long accepted as a largely male concern, one woman dies every 20 minutes in Canada according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation and while men face a greater risk of heart disease at a younger age, women are more likely to die. This may come as a shock to anyone who assumes that Canada’s healthcare system is universal but in fact that is the issue. One size does NOT fit all when it comes to heart disease.
Issues start with diagnosis, continue through recognizing heart attacks and even in treatment modalities. Common diagnostics like the stress test for cardiac output for example has been shown to be far less sensitive for women than men and even more so in younger women. During a heart attack, women often experience symptoms differently than men and therefore ignore many of them. Common ones described by women and unrelated to chest pain include:
• Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort
• Shortness of breath
• Pain in one or both arms
• Nausea or vomiting
• Light-headedness or dizziness
• Unusual fatigue
As many of these symptoms may be attributed to influenza or “general malaise” they are often ignored and women tend to show up in emergency rooms or doctors’ offices long after heart damage has occurred or seek no treatment at all. Even once diagnosed, many of the standard treatments have been found to be less beneficial for women and they are referred less often for cardiac rehabilitation than men and are less likely to complete rehab if they are referred.
So we must take matters into our own hands to protect ourselves and our loved ones through education on the risks and symptoms and not ignoring the early warning signs. For more information, visit www.heartandstroke.ca
Your friends at the Kawartha North FHT