What does a heart attack look like? If you just imagined someone suffering a moment of chest-clutching pain before falling to the floor, you’re not alone.
However, while this scenario is a reality for some, most people don’t realize that women can present very different symptoms than those of the “Hollywood heart attack.”
“The big thing about women’s heart disease is that it’s under-researched and under-recognized by physicians,” says Emily Lerhe (IMP Class of 2022). Emily is helping raise awareness about the Wear Red Canada campaign on Feb. 13.
Hosted by the Canadian Women’s Heart Health Alliance, Wear Red Canada seeks to educate people about women’s heart health.
“A lot of people don’t know that heart disease is actually the leading cause of premature death and hospitalization in Canada for women,” says Emily, who is part of the West Regional Planning Committee for the Wear Red Canada Day. Heart attack symptoms go unrecognized or misdiagnosed in 53% of women, in large part because most heart health research is focused on men.
Heart attack symptoms are often more vague in women, with chest discomfort, sweating, nausea, shortness of breath, and light-headedness being common.
Some of the conventional risk factors for heart disease, like smoking, hypertention, diabetes, obesity, inactivity, and depression also affect women more than men. Women are also subject to additional risk factors, including pregnancy complications and premature menopause.
Thankfully, heart disease is largely preventable. “About 80 per cent of heart disease can be prevented by lifestyle modifications, including diet, exercise, limiting smoking and alcohol use, and stress reduction,” says Emily.
To encouraging women to be conscious and proactive about their health, Wear Red Canada will host a number of virtual information sessions lead by health professionals, leaders, and women with lived experience. Everyone is welcome to register for these free events.
You can also get involved with the campaign by wearing red on Feb. 13, joining the campaign’s virtual 5K run, using #HerHeartMatters on social media, and sharing information with colleagues, family, and friends.
Visit wearredcanada.ca to learn more.