If you thought the single biggest killer of women was the big C, and especially breast cancer, you wouldn’t be alone.
Survey statistics revealed by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) show less than a third of women (31%) are aware that heart disease is the biggest killer of women with nearly two thirds (62%) believing that breast cancer is the biggest threat to their health. The reality is that heart disease kills three times as many women as breast cancer.
Because most women believe breast cancer is the greatest threat to their health it is frequently talked about, worried about and checked out. The BHF wants women to think about the threat of heart disease in a similar way and that’s why the charity is running the Angina Monologues campaign to encourage women to think about their hearts that bit more.
Heart disease can affect all women from all walks of life. Priscilla Chandro, pictured, from Surrey was just 37 when she suffered her first heart attack.
“I didn’t have any family history of heart disease. It was something that had never crossed my mind. Yet one night, just over two years ago, it became a burning issue.
I had gone to bed, but instead of drifting off my head started to really ache. It was a pain I had never experienced before and one that spread to both my arms. Beginning to feel anxious I decided to go downstairs and as I did I felt a wave of heat rush through me. It wasn’t long before I was lying on the floor looking at the ceiling; I’d collapsed on my way to get some paracetamol.
Having come around I phoned my mum who got my dad to come to my house. Dad is a nurse so I knew I would be in safe hands – he checked me over and called an ambulance. Having taken my blood pressure, but without conducting an ECG, the ambulance crew left with the suggestion I had the flu and if I didn’t feel better the next day – to visit my GP.
I woke up in the morning with a dull ache in my chest and I went to see my GP. She was shocked an ECG hadn’t been carried out the previous night and took one immediately. Concerned with the results she then called the local hospital which advised there was little to worry about and that I should rest at home.
My GP didn’t feel comfortable dismissing what I’d gone through and advised me to go to A&E over the weekend if the ache was still there. Two days later it still hadn’t left me and so I followed her advice. At A&E they very quickly carried out an ECG, that was followed by a second to confirm what were very shocking results – that I had had a massive heart attack!
I was admitted there and then and a subsequent angiogram revealed my left artery was 100% blocked. A stent was inserted straightaway.
With the heart attack came many shocks – not least that women suffer from heart disease. I wasn’t the only one surprised, the men on my ward were surprised to see me there, and the ambulance team who first treated me didn’t suspect. I hope my story however helps other women understand the importance of looking after their heart.”
June Davison, Senior Cardiac Nurse at the BHF, said:
“Too many women think heart disease only affects overweight, middle-aged men but this isn’t the case, heart disease wears a skirt too.
“It’s time for all women to handle their hearts with care and know what the risk factors are so they can take positive steps to improve and protect their heart health”
What’s it like to have a heart attack?
You won’t necessarily fall dramatically to the floor, clutching at your chest – you may instead experience one or a number of these symptoms:
• Chest pain or discomfort, which may spread to the arms, neck, jaw, stomach or back
• a dull pain, ache or ‘heavy’ feeling in your chest
• chest pain or discomfort which feels like indigestion but makes you feel generally unwell
• feeling sick, sweaty, breathless, lightheaded, dizzy or generally unwell as well as pain or discomfort in your chest.
Nearly half a million women in the UK have had a heart attack. If you think you could be having one, it’s vital that you phone 999 right away.
Don’t wait – every second counts. To find out more about how to protect your heart health visit bhf.org.uk/women