Shining a spotlight on women's heart health

By Tanya Cronin
February 27, 2018 - 12:42pm Updated: February 27, 2018 - 5:33pm

KAMLOOPS — A heart attack, when every second counts. But many Canadians don't treat it as an emergency. When a heart attack is imminent, both men and women usually report pain as their primary sign, but how both describe that pain can be very different. A new report by the Heart and Stroke Foundation, suggests women's heart health is in jeopardy. They are under-researched, under-diagnosed and under-treated. Often times, women dismiss symptoms of heart disease, and it's all chalking up to be a dangerous combination.

"Originally I thought I was just badly out of shape, just had to get out and exercise more."

For nearly three years, Teresa Dodgson ignored the signs. 

"It just kept getting worse and worse and my husband was a big part of that, he kept insisting it's not just being out of shape, you can't walk across the street without resting, that's not out of shape, and indigestion, huge indigestion," says Teresa Dodgson.

That chronic indigestion and shortness of breath wasn't nothing. Teresa's arteries were blocked, there was no time to waste and she was rushed in for a triple bypass heart surgery.

"I was devastated, I had no idea, within 24 hours I had my bypass, they booked me as critical."

Seven months later, Teresa is working hard on her recovery. She's part of the Vascular Improvement Program at the Tournament Capital Centre, and can now do physical activity she never thought possible.

"I can actually walk the track, I can do 12 or so laps in my time frame, so it's nice, it's nice to have air, it's nice to not be tired all the time like really tired."

Women's heart health is this years focus of the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Its 2018 heart report, titled 'Ms Understood' - says womens hearts have fallen victim to a failed system, and health care providers are missing the signs of a heart attack in 78% of women.

"Women have been under-researched, under-diagnosed, under-treated and under-supported, and really under-aware of their risks of heart disease," says Teresa Moore, Kamloops & Area Manager, Heart and Stroke Foundation.

The statistics are staggering, every 20 minutes a woman in Canada dies from heart disease, five times as many women die from heart disease than breast cancer, and when it comes to research two-thirds of patients enrolled in clinical trials are men. 

"We have different hormones, we go through differences with pregnancies and different stages of our lives, which is really something we need to focus on, women and their heart health."

In daily life, women often take care of everyone else. Add in stress, high blood pressure and other risk factors like family history, and it's easy to see why heart disease is the leading cause of premature death of women in this country. 

Teresa Dodgson is grateful for what she calls a second chance, and has some sobering advice. 

"Get things checked, you might think it's not a big thing, it'sll pass, but seriously talk to your doctor and get things checked," says Dodgson. 


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