While visiting the Huffington Post yesterday, I was immediately struck by this headline: “Russert’s Death Spawns Surge in Men Being Heart Smart.” I felt my jaw tighten. Then I clicked on the link and came to this, which tightened more than my jaw. An excerpt:
“When I stepped up to admissions desk the nurse asked why I was there. “Mild chest pains,” I said. “How old?” she asked. “Fifty,” I replied.
She nonchalantly turned to the orderly and said, “Hey, Lenny, we got another one.” I guess many men, stunned by Mr. Russert’s sudden death, were doing just the same thing I was.”
Are you getting the narrative yet? Men die from heart attacks. Men should worry about heart attacks. Men should get checked for heart disease. Heart disease is all about men. That is not just wrong, that’s deadly wrong.
Heart disease is the number one killer of women. You are more likely to die from a heart attack, than from all cancers combined. That includes breast cancer.
From the American Heart Association: “As with men, women's most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.”
From the CDC: “Although heart disease is sometimes thought of as a "man's disease," it is the leading cause of death for both women and men in the United States, and women account for 52.8% of the total heart disease deaths.
In 2004, heart disease was the cause of death in more than 450,000 females.
Heart disease is often perceived as an "older woman's disease," and it is the leading cause of death among women aged 65 years and older. However, heart disease is the third leading cause of death among women aged 25-44 years and the 2nd leading cause of death among women aged 45-64 years. Remember that many cases of heart disease can be prevented!”
Unfortunately, even many doctors do not know that heart disease is the number one killer of women: “ A 2004 survey explored whether doctors knew that more women than men die every year of CVD. Only 17% of cardiologists, 13% of obstetrician/gynecologists, and 8% of primary care doctors knew that fact.
"It's striking that fewer than one in five doctors knew how common CVD is in women," said Dr. Lorell. But the good news is that the new studies are making it easier for doctors to learn more about how CVD is different in men and women.
Researchers have also learned that more women have heart attacks that go unrecognized by healthcare workers. Treatments for CVD are as effective for women as for men. Yet women are less likely to get treatment such as cardiac devices, stents for blocked arteries, or bypass surgeries.”
It’s getting better. More doctors are becoming educated with the facts. But women need to familiarize themselves with the symptoms of heart attack, and if you ever experience any of those symptoms, get to a hospital quick. If you run into one of the doctors who is not educated on the facts; state that you believe you are having a heart attack, and insist they sign a letter, which you will write on the spot, agreeing that though you presented with the listed symptoms, they dismissed you without any tests. Tell them you want them to not only sign it, but you want a second doctor to exam you and sign the letter too. You’ll get the tests.