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Women’s Heart Health: Under-Diagnosed & Under-Treated

Women’s Heart Health Under-Diagnosed & Under-Treated.

It’s Heart Month and The Heart and Stroke have released their annual report and it’s not looking good for women! Women’s heart conditions are under-diagnosed & under-treated.  Why is that? Well, several reasons, but a main factor is that a heart attack in a woman looks and presents itself different than a heart attack in a man. Compound that will 2/3 of the research of heart health have been done on men, we’ve got a recipe for disaster.

There are some shocking facts from the Heart and Stroke Foundation report;

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of premature death for women in Canada (dying before reaching their expected lifespan).
  • Early heart attack signs were missed in 78% of women.
  • Every 20 minutes a woman in Canada dies from heart disease.
  • Five times as many women die from heart disease as breast cancer.
  • Two-thirds of heart disease clinical research focuses on men.
  • Women who have a heart attack are more likely to die or suffer a second heart attack compared to men.



If that wasn’t enough if you had pre-eclampsia  during pregnancy, “…research shows that a woman who develops pre-eclampsia is at double the risk of developing heart disease later in life.” It really does just get so much more FUN!

So knowing this information, what do we do? We have to advocate for ourselves and learn the signs of a cardiac event. Firstly, know the unique factors that can cause heart disease in women. Secondly, know what to look for if you’re having a  heart attack. The signs of a heart attack in women are not the ones you see on TV. It’s not the clutching of the chest and falling down, in fact, you could be having a heart attack and collapsing on the floor. You can walk and work while having a heart attack. Here are the signs from the Heart and Stroke Report:

  • Chest discomfort Pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain, burning or heaviness
  • Sweating
  • Upper body discomfort in the neck, jaw, shoulder, arms, back
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Light-headedness

Are you completely terrified? If so, that’s probably a good thing, because as moms and women we put ourselves last, and sometimes we need a kick in the pants to remember that we need to look after ourselves too. If we know the signs and the symptoms we can advocate for ourselves. We can be the Dr. Miranda Bailey in the ER telling the other Dr.’s that we know what we’re talking about and NO it’s not stress or indigestion (yes, I just watched that Greys Anatomy episode and damn it was so good and the timing was perfect!). Give them your best Dr. Bailey stare down and be the Dr. Bailey that you need in your life (all hail Miranda Bailey).