A heart to heart with three women and heart disease
Heart disease claims the lives of more Australian women than any other disease or injury. For the past 60 years, heart disease has been the leading cause of death of women in Australia.
The alarming reality is that even today, one in five deaths is still caused by (or attributable) to heart disease. What’s worse is that most Australian women are not aware of these facts.
At first, these three women weren't either, but their stories of hope and courage are an inspiration to us all.
Like the majority of Australian women, Jacqui, Margaret and Debbie didn’t recognise the warning signs. Here, these three women talk openly about their experiences with heart disease and their individual journeys to recovery.
“I thought heart attacks were an old man’s disease, I never thought this could happen to me.”
Jacqui had a heart attack at the age of 43. She was young, fit, didn’t smoke and was otherwise completely healthy. Like many Australians, she believed that heart disease was a man’s disease, so dismissed a slight discomfort in her chest as nothing more than indigestion.
Heart attack symptoms in women tend to be more subtle and ambiguous than those in men. Research has shown that, like Jacqui, around 25 per cent of women who have a heart attack are more likely to suffer the a-typical symptoms such as shortness of breath, upper back pressure or discomfort, flu-like symptoms, weakness and lightheadedness, all of which can be subtle and easily mistaken for other health conditions.
Funds donated to the Heart Foundation are used to educate all Australians about about the prevalence of heart disease in Australia and how to recognise the warning signs of a heart attack, ensuring those at risk seek life-saving care.
"My first heart attack was a harrowing experience. I never would have dreamed that at 35 years of age I was susceptible to a heart attack."
Margaret suffered her first heart attack at the age of 35 and, like Jacqui, it took her completely by surprise.
Heart disease doesn’t only affect older people. It can start building from a young age, especially in those with genetic predispositions. Each year heart disease is attributable to 6.4 per cent of deaths for women under 54 years. Preexisting conditions like hypercholesterolemia are one such factor, as are a woman’s smoking status, her blood pressure, blood cholesterol, weight, diet and how physically active she is. All can contribute to the of risk heart disease and it is important to be observant of your heart health at every stage of life.
"Before I started rehab I thought my life was over. But I was wrong. For the first time after my heart attack, I felt like there was hope."
After her heart attack, Debbie felt helpless and that there was no hope left for her. She decided to give cardiac rehab a go and hasn’t looked back since.
We know that proper care and cardiac rehabilitation following a heart event is a vital component on the road to recovery. That's why improving the cardiac rehabilitation service in Australia and ensuring that every patient is referred to a program, is one of our main focuses and funds are desperately needed to continue to improve these support services.
Cardiac rehabilitation programs help people to recover not only physically, but mentally as well. They enjoy a better quality of life, thanks to new treatments, prevention strategies and a deeper understanding of their disease.
This month we’re talking about women and heart disease to help all Australians recognise the warning signs and seek proper care, for themselves or a loved one, both during and after a heart event. Together we can help protect the hearts of the women we love.
Want to find out more about women and heart disease? Take our quiz and learn the facts.