Coronary heart disease (CHD) kills more than twice as many women as breast cancer in the UK every year, and it was the single biggest killer of women worldwide in 2019. Currently there are 3.6 million women living in the UK with heart disease.
Each year more than 30,000 women are admitted to hospital in the UK due to a heart attack. Despite this, it’s often considered a man’s disease.
Female risks of heart problems
Women are dying needlessly from heart attacks in the UK, or not making as good a recovery as they could, because they don't receive the same care and treatment as men, but why?
Studies have shown that women with coronary artery disease often visit their doctors or seek medical advice later than men do, despite the warning signs. Extending the time from the onset of the heart attack to treatment time, dramatically reduces your chance of survival and increases the chance of permanent heart damage. Rapid treatment is essential, and the aim is to restore blood flow to the affected part of the heart muscle as soon as possible. This significantly increases your chance of surviving a heart attack and helps to limit the amount of damage to the heart. The study also showed -
A woman is 50% more likely than a man to receive the wrong initial diagnosis for a heart attack.
Women are less likely than men to receive a number of potentially lifesaving treatments in a timely way and may have fewer diagnostic procedures performed on them.
Following a heart attack, women are less likely to be prescribed medications to help prevent a second heart attack.
What are the symptoms of a heart attack?
Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the centre of your chest. It lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back.
Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or light-headedness.
As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women may experience other symptoms that are typically less associated with heart attack, such as shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.
Can women reduce their risk of having a heart attack?
As a woman, your hormones might give you some protection from coronary heart disease in your pre-menopause years. Post menopause, your risk rises and continues to rise as you get older. As you get older it is increasingly important to be aware of the risk factors that can affect your risk of developing coronary heart disease. The more risk factors you have, the higher your risk. Risk factors include:
not doing enough physical activity
Lower your risk of a heart attack
Identifying and managing risk factors early on could help lower your risk of a heart attack in the future. Living an active lifestyle, eating a balanced diet, reduce your alcohol intake, reduce your weight (if you are overweight) and don’t smoke.