Friday, March 8, 2019

Women call ambulance for husbands with heart attacks but not for themselves

We must take care of all women in our families

“Women call an ambulance for husbands, fathers and brothers with heart attack symptoms but not for themselves”. Two studies from the Polish Registry of Acute Coronary Syndromes (PL-ACS) presented recently at Acute Cardiovascular Care 2019,
a European Society of Cardiology (ESC) congress highlight this very crucial point.

The studies included more than 7000 patients with ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI). Overall, 45% of patients were found to be treated within the recommended timeframe (within 90 min of diagnosis by ECG); fewer women than men received timely treatment. Male gender remained an independent predictor of treatment within the recommended timeframe even after adjusting for factors that could influence the relationship.

Those who received prompt treatment were less likely to have a left ventricle ejection fraction (LVEF) below 40%.

ECG results were transmitted from the ambulance to a heart attack center in about 40% of patients. In women, the likelihood of ECG transfer rose with increasing age – from 34% in women aged 54 years and under to 45% in those aged 75 and above. This means that ECG results for younger women were less often sent to the hospital. On the other hand, the rate of transfer of ECG results to the hospital in men was around 40% regardless of age.

Heart disease has generally never been thought to be a woman’s disease.  But, heart disease is the number one cause of death in women. Despite this, women do not get diagnosed timely or take treatment timely.

When a woman complains of symptoms such as breathlessness, it is passed off, quite often by themselves, as anxiety or a panic attack.

This is because traditionally, women are the “nurturers” and “caregivers” and so tend to put the health and well-being of their family ahead of their own needs. They form the backbone of the family, which holds the family together. Therefore, women should receive equal attention and care as do the men in their families.

It is very important to spread awareness on the fact that women too are prone to serious health problems, which if diagnosed and treated at the right time can help in preventing further complications. 

Heart attacks do occur in women, even young women. It is important to remember that women are more likely to have atypical signs and symptoms, which may be the reason for the delay in calling for medical help. Women are more likely to have pain in the jaw, neck or back (between the shoulder blades), unexplained weakness, shortness of breath, cough, dizziness or nausea.

Today is International Women’s Day. The theme for International Women’s Day this year is “#BalanceforBetter”, which is a call-to-action for driving gender balance across the world.

The day drives home the message that we must take care of all women in our families, their health and well-being, even if they don’t do it themselves.

Dr KK Aggarwal
Padma Shri Awardee
President Elect Confederation of Medical Associations in Asia and Oceania   (CMAAO)
Group Editor-in-Chief IJCP Publications
President Heart Care Foundation of India
Past National President IMA

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