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Womens heart symptoms - are they the same as for men?

Womens heart symptoms can be somewhat vague. For example, Anna-Marie had no idea she had a heart condition -read her story. Both women and men may experience typical or non-typical heart symptoms such as nausea, sweating, pain in the arm, throat, jaw or pain that is unusual; however, women may describe their pain differently than men. But the most common sign of heart disease in women is chest pain, just as it is for men.

Two things every woman needs to know

First is to know and recognize the symptoms. Often women don't recognize what is happening to them until it is too late. The symptoms may be vague or there may be disbelief or denial. Sometimes women put off getting help because they feel they have to look after others first. Women are used to taking care of children, grandchildren, parents, and spouses - everyone else before themselves.

Second, is that although the awareness of women and heart disease is growing, many people, including health professionals, still cling to the stereotypes that it is a man's disease. If you think you might be experiencing heart problems or a heart attack, tell your doctor or attending medical professionals. Insist on being checked and don't take no for an answer.

According to 2007 Heart & Stroke Foundation data, fewer Canadian women are referred to a cardiologist following a heart attack than men. As well, women are less likely to receive life-saving bypass surgery, be transferred to a facility for treatment, and experience slower response times in emergency rooms when they show up with heart attack symptoms.

In 2008, Dr. Susan K Bennett, director of the women's heart program at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C. said that despite an increase in public awareness about women and the no. 1 killer - heart disease - mortality rates remain higher among women than men because women are not receiving the same level of care that men do. "Doctors need to hear the message about the significant deficits in women's heart health care and bridge this gender gap," Bennett said.

And in a 2009 Canwest news clip, it was reported that more women than men were dying of heart disease. Deaths and hospital admissions for heart disease in Canada dropped by 30 per cent from 1999 to 2009, according to the Canadian Medical Association Journal; however, more women than men are dying of cardiovascular causes, especially elderly women.

All of this underlies the importance of being aware of womens heart symptoms. It could save a life. Maybe yours.

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