However, according to the British Heart Foundation, around 26,000 women in the UK die of a heart attack every year. While many think that cardiovascular disease is a male-dominated illness, nearly as many women as men die from heart attacks and strokes every year. Heart attacks can present very differently in men and women, which can lead to delays in treatment. GP Dr Wendy Denning has explained more about female heart attacks and how people could potentially save a woman’s life simply by having the knowledge to spot the condition.
Dr Denning said many women may just feel abdominal pain, or pain anywhere in the chest or the jaw, neck or back. They may also suffer from an acute shortage of breath for no reason making them less inclined to seek medical advice and therefore causing a delay in treatment,” she said.
“In comparison, men typically notice left sided chest pain that radiates down the left arm during a heart attack.”
This comes after a new study revealed nearly half of all heart attacks go unnoticed, but can increase the risk of dying from heart disease by a third. Dubbed 'silent' heart attacks, they are caused by blood flow to the heart muscle being severely reduced or cut off completely, but do not result in the sufferer feeling unwell. Researchers said the heart attacks can have classic symptoms and can happen without any shortness of breath, cold sweats or chest pains. They also discovered women are more likely to die as a result than men.
“There is no doubt that women are often slower to think about a heart attack, as are the doctors when they get to the hospital,” said Dr Denning.
“So they may not be offered the acute treatment they need without a delay. For instance, thrombolytic medicines that dissolve the blood clots blocking the arteries, help most if given within six hours of a heart attack, restoring blood supply to heart muscle before it becomes irreversibly impaired. Similarly using a balloon catheter in the immediate post heart attack period, to unblock narrowed blood vessels and to place a stent may be even more important in women as they have narrower arteries than men to begin with.In fact the evidence is that women are more likely to die in the year post heart attack than men.”
After the heart attack, treatment is the same for both sexes and includes Aspirin or Clopidorgel – to stop the platelets clumping to form blockages; Beta blockers – to decrease the heart’s workload: Statin drugs - to reduce cholesterol and inflammation, and ACE inhibitors - to decrease blood pressure and decrease strain on the heart.
However, Dr Denning said fewer women are offered and attend a six week Cardiac Rehabilitation programme, which focuses on heart healthy eating, weight reduction, managing stress, exercise and stopping smoking.
Dr Denning said high blood pressure and diabetes increase the likelihood of having a heart attack in a woman, more than a man, so these need to be tackled aggressively, by diet, lifestyle, and then medication.
This is best done by tackling insulin resistance, keeping down blood pressure and improving the good to bad cholesterol ratio in women, by diet and exercise and supplementing your diet with supplements.
Dr Denning recommended supplements including magnesium, fish oils and CardioMato - a tomato nutrient complex available from Boots, which is scientifically proven to improve insulin resistance, reduce blood pressure and support cardiovascular health, with measurable results in just six weeks.