Cardiovascular Disease (stoke, coronary heart disease and heart failure) is among the leading causes of death in women, behind dementia. From The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s 2022 study, it was found that cardiovascular disease (CVD) was responsible for 17.7% of the fatal burden of disease for women. For most women, the risk of developing CVD increases significantly after menopause, however CVD can occur at any age.
Chest pain is the most common heart attack symptom affecting women (and men). However, women are more likely than men to experience non-chest pain symptoms including:
- jaw, shoulder or back pain,
- nausea or vomiting,
- shortness of breath/difficulty breathing,
- or fatigue/tiredness.
Furthermore, the chest pain experienced by women during heart attacks is often not the same severe pain felt by men. Chest pain among women is commonly misinterpreted or dismissed, by both women and health professionals. This study found that 31.3% of women received a mental health condition diagnosis when presenting with CVD symptoms, compared with 15.6% of men. Similarly, this study found that women who had a heart attack were 59% more likely to receive the wrong initial diagnosis. It is your right to access healthcare services and treatment that meets your needs, and your health concerns deserve to be heard. If you feel like your symptoms are being dismissed, you can seek a second opinion.
There are many factors that can increase your risk of developing CVD, including age, gender, and family history, however risk factors that can be reduced through lifestyle include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, being overweight, physical inactivity, smoking, diabetes and depression.
Having regular health checks with your doctor throughout your life is important for your health awareness. Managing your blood pressure, cholesterol, knowing the best types of food to eat, being active and managing depression and diabetes if you have them, are important for lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease. It is recommended to see your doctor for a discussion about your risks of developing cardiovascular disease including your family history and ethnic background.