Heart dis­ease among women

The Jerusalem Post - The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - CONTENTS - • By ILANA SHTOTLAND

Last Sun­day, a huge bal­loon of a hu­man heart was placed at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, this time the goal was the focus of a cam­paign with the #Sim­iLev hash­tag meant to make women aware of the symp­toms in­di­cat­ing heart trou­bles.

The mas­sive hu­man heart and the in­for­ma­tion booth were on site un­til yes­ter­day.

Mem­bers of the pub­lic are in­vited to pump this mas­sive heart by of­fer­ing In­sta­gram likes un­til the heart will ex­pand to the height of six me­ters (19.6 feet). How will this work? Well, each so­cial me­dia like given to the Wom­ens Heart Health Cen­ter at Hadas­sah Univer­sity Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem will be met with some ex­tra air in­flated into the huge heart.

“We of­ten at­tempt to get me­dia at­ten­tion to women’s heart is­sues to in­crease aware­ness of the is­sue,” head of the Wom­ens Heart Health Cen­ter, Dr. Dana Tz­fat said, “but this is the first time we are at­tempt­ing a week-long cam­paign.”

Dr. Tz­fat is one of the lead­ers be­hind the ef­fort, and as she ex­plains it, “We try to get our mes­sage across with cre­ativ­ity.”

“One part of this cre­ativ­ity is to work with new sys­tems, such as the so­cial me­dia app and the in­flat­able heart, which were both de­vel­oped by us,” she said

The cam­paign is a col­lec­tive work, join­ing to­gether the Is­raeli As­so­ci­a­tion of Cardiologi­sts and four other women’s heart health cen­ters in The Rabin Med­i­cal Cen­ter – Beilin­son Cam­pus, Ichilov Hos­pi­tal, Ram­bam Med­i­cal Cen­ter and Sheba Med­i­cal Cen­ter, Tel Hashomer.

The need to pro­mote bet­ter aware­ness among women to pos­si­ble heart prob­lems is that they are usu­ally thought of as a male health risk. This is why a woman is three times as likely to die as a re­sult of a heart at­tack than a man. While fewer women suf­fer from heart fail­ures than men, such heart at­tacks are dead­lier when their vic­tims are women.

Women don’t seek help as much as they need to when they ex­pe­ri­ence the first signs of heart trou­bles. “On av­er­age,” Dr. Tz­fat ex­plains, “women wait 59 min­utes be­fore ask­ing for med­i­cal help and take an ex­tra 89 min­utes to ar­rive at the ER.” “Ev­ery de­layed minute,” she warns, “means an­other heart cell not mak­ing it.”

The rea­son for this dif­fer­ence is that when men ex­pe­ri­ence chest pain, “every­body speed di­als the emer­gency ser­vices,” she says, “women who ex­pe­ri­ence chest pains try to self-di­ag­nose.”

“The woman might con­vince her­self that this can’t re­ally be a heart at­tack, and that the pain just means she is tired, for ex­am­ple,” she says.

In a sur­vey, peo­ple of both gen­ders were asked what they would do if they ex­pe­ri­ence chest pains. Those who said they would not call an am­bu­lance were asked why, in 27% of the cases, both men and women said the rea­son was money. They could not af­ford to pay the am­bu­lance fee if the sit­u­a­tion did not re­quire them to re­main in hos­pi­tal. While 74% of women said they would fetch an am­bu­lance if some­one else was suf­fer­ing from pains in their chest, only 54% said they would show the same kind­ness to them­selves and call an am­bu­lance if they had such pains.

Dr. Tz­fat ex­plains that “women are very much afraid others will call them hys­ter­i­cal.” They also lack the time to look af­ter their own health as they are com­mit­ted to work, fam­ily life, their chil­dren, their par­ents and have lit­tle time left over for their own needs. Hence the com­mon re­ac­tion of say­ing that “these chest pains will go away in the morn­ing.”

“This is why I am so con­fi­dent an aware­ness cam­paign will help,” she said, “a woman rarely imag­ines she is hav­ing a heart at­tack. Sim­ply be mak­ing that thought an op­tion we will in­crease the num­bers of women seek­ing med­i­cal help at the first sign of such symp­toms.”

She stressed how vi­tal it is women lis­ten to their own “in­ner voice,” and pay heed to any mi­nor change, for ex­am­ple, if some­thing that used to be fea­si­ble, like climb­ing two flights of stairs, be­comes some­thing they try to avoid.

Many think of breast can­cer as the global leader in health risks for women, WHHC mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor Hanna Graten­berg says, but they are wrong. She points out that heart and blood ves­sels is­sues are the num­ber one cause of death for women, not breast can­cer. “Is­raeli women are not aware of the risks when mat­ters of heart health are con­cerned,” she says.

Head of the Is­raeli As­so­ci­a­tion of Cardiologi­sts, Prof. Doron Zeger, says that, in his view, the mat­ter is not in­dif­fer­ence, as some women and some men are bound to be in­dif­fer­ent to health con­cerns – as long as they are healthy – but that women sim­ply do not ex­pe­ri­ence heart prob­lems in the “usual, com­mon clas­sic” way that men do, he points out.

Women might show other signs of heart prob­lems, such as short­age of breath and over­all poor health, this is com­mon among older women. While it is gen­er­ally true that pre­menopausal women show less heart trou­ble than men, once menopause be­gins, the num­bers even out.

“This leads some mem­bers of the pub­lic to feel a lack of con­cern, as if heart trou­bles are only a male is­sue. This is wrong,” he warns.

“I have seen young women get heart at­tacks as well,” he ex­plains. “This is why this cam­paign is im­por­tant, so that ev­ery­one will be­come more aware of the risks.”

Dr. Tz­fat ex­plains that in this coun­try, the av­er­age age for a first heart at­tack among men is 65 and among women, 72. Women who do not smoke or suf­fer from di­a­betes en­joy some mea­sure of de­fense against heart prob­lems that seems to van­ish with menopause.

In 2017, 3,900 men died in Is­rael due to heart at­tacks and 3,700 women died like­wise. This was the first year in which men died in greater num­bers from heart at­tacks than women. Un­til 2016, women tended to die more of­ten from heart fail­ures.

Dr. Tz­fat urges all women at risk, mean­ing women with high blood pres­sure, high lev­els of fat in their blood and high lev­els of sugar, to get checked.

“And not just by an EKG ma­chine,” she warns. “De­mand to have a car­diac stress test as well.”

She lists the other tell­tale signs that some­thing might be wrong: heart-burn; short­age of breath; pain in the shoul­ders or up­per back or the arms or the jaw; sweat­ing and feel­ing weak­ness for no ap­par­ent rea­son.

Such cam­paigns have at­tempted to raise aware­ness among women in the US since 1997, but en­coun­tered mixed re­sults. While white women were able to ben­e­fit from the in­for­ma­tion, women of color were ei­ther not ex­posed to it or un­able to use it to seek help on time.

In this coun­try, both men and women in the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try have agreed to take part in the cam­paign and in­clude the red in­flated heart in their so­cial me­dia ac­counts: from model Galit Got­man and for­mer chil­dren en­ter­tainer Tzipi Shavit to Men­tal­ists Nim­rod Harel and Lior Suchard, fa­mous for their abil­i­ties as stage ma­gi­cians.

The cam­paign was joined by such Is­raeli firms as El Al and Bank Hapoalim, mean­ing that tens of thou­sands of work­ers will be able to have ac­cess to the in­for­ma­tion it con­tains.

“We may not be able to change hu­man be­hav­ior from one day to the other,” Dr. Tz­fat said. “One week can only get so many peo­ple to no­tice things... we need to drive the mes­sage home con­stantly, drop by drop.”


THE CAM­PAIGN with the #Sim­iLev hash­tag aims to in­crease women’s aware­ness of symp­toms of heart trou­ble.


JOUR­NAL­IST NAVA BOKER (right) gets in the spirit.

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