Did you know that women are affected differently by heart disease than men? Here’s why it’s important to understand the unique risks and symptoms women face, and how to better protect your heart health, from leading suppliers of defibrillators in Australia.
Heart Disease is Different for Women and Men
When it comes to focusing on a disease that impacts women, a lot more coverage and awareness exists around issues such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and sexually transmitted health conditions. And while those conditions deserve attention, the reality is that heart disease (also cardiovascular disease or CVD) is the cause of around 1/3 of all deaths amongst women in Australia. It kills twice as many women as breast cancer and 40% of heart attacks in women are fatal.
The reason why CVD is so deadly for women is that the symptoms are different from those that men tend to have and that a lot less awareness is raised about these symptoms. This leads to women not realising their symptoms are serious because they seem vague, with serious symptoms developing at a much later stage than men. Also, some diagnostic tests are not as accurate at diagnosing CVD in women, and even doctors may be less likely to check or realise that the symptoms their female patient is having are serious signs of a heart attack.
Heart Attack Symptoms in Women
Men generally experience the version of a heart attack that we are so familiar with – chest pain and discomfort, shortness of breath, and nausea. In contrast, a heart attack may present itself in a woman with very different symptoms.
Approximately one month before the heart attack:
- Trouble sleeping
- Shortness of breath
- Racing heartbeat
- Arms feeling weak or heavy
During the heart attack:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Shortness of breath
- Cold sweats, coughing and wheezing
- Neck and/or jaw/back pain
- Burning sensation in the chest
- Swelling in the legs, feet, or ankles
As you can see, these symptoms can easily be confused with health issues like the flu or a bad cold, or even heartburn. However, if you or any woman you know starts having these symptoms, it’s critical to head to the hospital and ask them to check for a heart attack to be on the safe side.
When are Women Most at Risk?
CVD tends to occur at a more advanced age in women than men, with most women having their first heart attack at 70 years of age, so age and the process of going through menopause is a significant risk factor. At this time, researchers aren’t sure why this is, but they recommend an annual heart health check-up once you reach 45.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders show a greater risk of CVD and heart attack than other races, so it’s recommended that you have an annual heart health check-up once you reach 35.
Other risk factors include a family history of CVD, heart attacks or sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), smoking or drinking alcohol, high blood pressure, chronic stress, a sedentary lifestyle, being overweight, and other health conditions like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus.
What Can Women Do?
The first thing you can do is learn, remember and raise awareness about CVD and heart attack symptoms in women, helping to empower you about your health and better protect women in your family and community.
Secondly, you should have a heart health check (checking blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.) once a year that also checks your sugar levels. If you need help quitting smoking or alcohol, your doctor can also recommend a good program.
Also, you can modify your lifestyle, including developing healthy diet and exercise habits, to improve your heart health, immune system, and better manage weight.
Lastly, if you are at high risk for heart attack, SCA, or other cardiac emergencies, it’s a good idea to invest in an automated external defibrillator (AED) for your home or workplace. This is the only way to effectively restart a heart if it goes into arrest, a situation that has a survival rate of 10% or less.
These are all small changes, but they can make all the difference when it comes to saving a life!
Cost-Effective AEDs and Free Training in Australia
At DefibsPlus, we not only supply world-class HeartSine AEDs, but we also offer comprehensive defibrillator training through our HeartSmart Program, a program developed in partnership with Monash University, offering online and in-person training for individuals and groups. In addition, we also offer a subsidy to help make investing in a HeartSine AED more affordable.
For more information on our products and services or the DefibsPlus subsidy, call 1300 463 344 or use our online form to contact us today. Together, we can save lives.