My mum died of a sudden and fatal heart attack after years of being regarded as the “healthy one” having dodged the family narrative of autoimmune diseases, arthritis and dementia.
When my mum died I started researching what would have caused an otherwise healthy woman to have such a massive heart attack. I was shocked to learn heart disease is the #1 cause of death for Australian women. 4 x as many women die of coronary heart disease than from breast cancer in Australia!
And even more frightening it is very common for a woman having a heart attack to discount and ignore her symptoms as the tremendous chest pain that men report is not likely for a woman.
In one study, 58% of women reported the comparatively gentle symptom of breathlessness. Others reported vague symptoms of weakness, unusual fatigue, cold sweats and dizziness yet no chest pain.
The morning of my mother’s heart attack she chatted on the phone with a girlfriend sharing how she felt really tired but she couldn’t work out why. She told her friend she thought she just needed pep up with a strong cup of tea so she was heading to the shops to get some milk for her cuppa. Less than 1 hour after this phone call to her friend my mum had a massive heart attack at her local grocery store and did not survive.
If you suffer any combination of these more subtle symptoms for more than a few minutes, particularly if you are a woman, please seek medical help quickly:
- Ache or pain in the upper back, jaw or neck
- Sudden difficulty breathing
- Sudden overwhelming fatigue or weakness
- Flu-like symptoms: nausea, vomiting, cold sweats
- Sudden anxiety, malaise and loss of appetite.
February is Heart Research Month a great time to think about our heart health, and for me, to honour my mum Roslyn. Let’s have a closer look at the top 3 risk factors you can do something about that have a huge impact of your heart:
- High blood pressure: shockingly 2 – 3 x more common in women than in men.
- Smoking: even more harmful in women than in men.
- Diabetes: again even more scary for women than men diabetes increases the risk of heart attack by 3 – 7 x in women compared with 2 – 3 x in men.
Frighteningly Heart Research Australia claim “women are much less likely than men to change risky behaviours” relating to their heart health. High blood pressure, smoking cessation and diabetes are all health issues that can be managed, controlled and reduced.
Always make sure you speak with your GP to get an accurate picture of your current heart health and as a naturopath I believe it is my role to increase your chance of sticking to and committing to decisions that make for a long and healthy life through:
- Education based on valid scientific research
- Mood-lifting herbs and supplements that help reduce the cravings and anxiety that can accompany withdrawal from sugar, salt and cigarettes
- Ongoing coaching and motivation to address your risk factors and goals.
Do you know your risk factors? What is stopping you from loving your heart?
For more information check out the Red Feb here
Albarran, J. W., Clarke, B. A., & Crawford, J. (2007). ‘It was not chest pain really, I can’t explain it!’An exploratory study on the nature of symptoms experienced by women during their myocardial infarction. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 16(7), 1292-1301.