One in 10 women think only men suffer heart attacks, poll suggests

‘It could be the difference between life and death for some if they don’t take symptoms or the risk of a heart attack seriously’

Gemma Francis
Thursday 04 July 2019 18:33
 28 per cent of those surveyed said they had a family history of heart attacks but did no cardiovascular exercise
28 per cent of those surveyed said they had a family history of heart attacks but did no cardiovascular exercise

Millions of women don't worry about having a heart attack because they believe only men suffer fatal cardiac arrests, a poll has suggested.

Official figures show there are more than 800,000 women in the UK living with coronary heart disease, which is the main cause of heart attacks.

And around 35,000 women are admitted to hospital following a heart attack each year in the UK - an average of 98 per day, or four per hour.

But despite this, researchers who polled 2,000 women found more than one in 10 believe only men have to worry about heart complaints.

Around one in eight don’t believe women suffer from heart attacks, while one in four think they would experience different symptoms to men if they did.

As a result, more than a third of women believe they are less likely to seek help for chest pains than men.

“Many are aware that heart attacks are something men need to be concerned about, but there is a huge misconception among women that they aren’t at risk," said Dr Sarah Brewer, medical director at Healthspan, which commissioned the research.

“Not only is this wrong, but it could be the difference between life and death for some if they don’t take symptoms or the risk of a heart attack seriously.”

The study found just 87 per cent of women would associate chest pains or discomfort with having a heart attack, while only 57 per cent recognise profuse and unexplained sweating as a possible symptom of cardiac arrest.

Others were unaware back pain, and feeling sick or light-headed could also be a signal of a heart attack.

Dr Ameet Bakhai, consultant cardiologist at The Spire Bushey Hospital, said: “The risk of women having a heart attack increases for women once they have gone through the menopause due in part to a reduction in oestrogen.

"And more than one in 10 in the survey didn’t realise this, plus a common misconception is that by being on HRT, women are protected from heart disease and unfortunately that’s not a straight forward assumption either.

"The research around this has shown some benefits and some risks unfortunately.

“Women are also not aware that they have a higher chance of suffering from a heart attack if their male partner has had a heart attack given that husbands.

British Heart Foundation animation shows you how risk factors like high cholesterol and smoking can lead to a heart attack or a stroke

"And wives often share the same behavioural risk factors and environmental factors such as smoking or sedentary lifestyle.”

Additionally the stress of looking after a husband dying or surviving of a heart attack affects the wife caregiver negatively and increases their own risk of health issues, worsened by anxiety and depression.

There are many risk factors linked to cardiovascular disease and one in five of those surveyed said they have a family history of cardiovascular disease but 28 per cent said they do little or no exercise to improve their cardio health.

Almost one in five of the women polled have high blood pressure while others have high cholesterol levels, smoke or are overweight.

But worryingly, 58 per cent of those polled have no idea what their blood pressure is, while three quarters don’t keep tabs on their cholesterol levels.

The poll also found that a third of respondents have suffered from chest pains, but only around half of them got it checked out by a GP.

What to do if someone is having a heart attack

Of those who didn’t seek medical advice, 58 per cent felt it wasn’t anything serious while 24 per cent didn’t want to waste their doctor’s time.

Dr Ameet Bakhai added: “Regular check-ups and screening is vital and the Healthspan survey showed that 69 percent of people who took the survey were already on a statin to lower their cholesterol.

"Many people self-medicate due to the side effects of statins which isn’t always without risk but there are solutions that research has shown can counteract the muscular aches and fatigue that some patients experience.

"For example, for some patients I recommend Co-enzyme Q10 supplements such as Ubiquinol (the body ready form of Coenzyme Q10).

"A summary of careful review of the research showed that this form of supplementation may be a complementary approach to manage statin‐induced myopathy or muscle aches.”


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