When a man has a heart attack, it might feel like an elephant sitting on his chest.
Women usually won’t feel that way.
More women die from heart disease each year than men.
Women experience heart disease differently, are treated differently and sometimes don’t take seriously enough their own heart health, said Sue Kindschi, manager of Edgerton Hospital’s cardio pulmonary department.
Women’s lifestyles can affect how they receive treatment, Kindschi said.
Many women don’t take enough time to care for themselves. They often are overloaded in their roles as caregivers, employees, friends, partners and more, she said.
Kindschi once met a 70-year-old woman who suffered a heart attack while canning tomatoes. Instead of going to the emergency room, the woman finished canning so the tomatoes wouldn’t go to waste.
“That’s kind of how we think,” Kindschi said. “We’re always taking care of everyone else and putting ourselves on the bottom of the list.”
The current social climate also affects how women receive treatment, Kindschi said.
While movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp have improved gender equality, it has made some men too cautious to help women, Kindschi said.
Some people feel uncomfortable pushing on a woman’s chest to give CPR, Kindschi said.
According to the American Heart Association, 45 percent of men received CPR in public, compared to 39 percent of women.
The gap in bystander CPR delivery can be improved by training and communication, according to the heart association.
Heart disease is often thought of as only heart attacks, but it includes heart murmurs, artery clogs and heart defects, Kindschi said.
Edgerton Hospital will host its tenth annual Wear Red Day Luncheon at 11:30 a.m. Friday, Feb. 2, at the hospital to raise awareness for heart disease in women.
The event will celebrate the national Go Red for Women campaign from the American Heart Association, according to a news release. A panel of local women who have suffered heart disease will speak and answer questions.
Heart disease was largely considered a man’s disease until the American Heart Association created the campaign in 2004, said Kindschi. From then on, the first Friday in February has been National Wear Red Day for women’s heart health awareness.
Before 2004, heart research was mostly performed on men, despite it being the leading cause of death for both men and women, Kindschi said.
Locally, cases of heart disease reflect national trends, Kindschi said. Many patients she meets are not well-informed of the signs, symptoms and dangers related to heart health.
Physicians at national and local levels have improved the heart health gap between men and women, Kindschi said.
Ten years ago, men would receive treatment for heart disease earlier than women, Kindschi said. It was believed women were not as vulnerable, but that has since found to be false.
Symptoms to be aware of include:
- Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck or back
- Feeling weak, light headed or faint
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Pain or discomfort in the arms or shoulders
- Shortness of breath
People who are experiencing a heart attack should call an ambulance and never drive or ask someone else to drive them to the hospital, Kindschi said. Emergency medical professionals are the only people equipped for that situation.
Those concerned about heart health should talk to their primary care physician as soon as possible, Kindschi said.