Health tip of the week

Learn the dan­ger signs of fe­male heart at­tack

The Irish Times - Tuesday - Health - - Lifestyle - Health Tip of the Week is spon­sored by Pfizer as part of its Healthy Town ini­tia­tive. Every year Pfizer se­lects a town to take part in a unique ini­tia­tive aimed at show­ing you – no mat­ter what age you are, or where you live – sim­ple steps to im­prove your

Car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease – mainly heart at­tack and stroke – is one of the great­est health threats to women in Ire­land, yet re­search car­ried out by the Ir­ish Heart Foun­da­tion showed that fewer than one in five Ir­ish women were aware of this.

Dur­ing the Pfizer Healthy Town ini­tia­tive, ex­perts from the Ir­ish Heart Foun­da­tion will be on hand to of­fer ad­vice to both men and women about how to recog­nise the symp­toms of a heart prob­lem. But while most peo­ple are aware of the clas­sic signs of a heart at­tack, many don’t re­alise that women may present dif­fer­ently and it is vi­tal for them to know what to look out for in or­der to get med­i­cal help as quickly as pos­si­ble.

Dr Angie Brown, med­i­cal di­rec­tor of the Ir­ish Heart Foun­da­tion, of­fers some sim­ple ad­vice on how to spot the dan­ger signs.

“It can be very hard to di­ag­nose,” she says. “Rather than the clas­sic ver­sion where some­one is seen clutch­ing their chest, the symp­toms of a heart at­tack in women can be quite vague and in­clude nau­sea, tired­ness, short­ness of breath, back pain or tight­ness in the jaw – rather than the fa­mil­iar sce­nario of a pain in the chest that shoots down one arm.

“Ir­ish re­search shows that one of the rea­sons many women die from heart at­tack is they de­lay in getting to the emer­gency de­part­ment. So one of the most im­por­tant mes­sages is to ad­vise women ex­pe­ri­enc­ing these symp­toms not to de­lay – call 999 for an am­bu­lance and get to the emer­gency de­part­ment im­me­di­ately.”

Re­search has also high­lighted that doctors too have a role in recog­nis­ing that women may have heart prob­lems. And they should make all women aware that fac­tors such as smok­ing, be­ing over­weight or obese, hav­ing high blood pres­sure, high choles­terol, be­ing in­ac­tive, hav­ing di­a­betes or a fam­ily his­tory of heart prob­lems all in­crease the risk of heart at­tack and stroke.­

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