premature cardiovascular deaths

Symptoms of heart disease in women including back pain, dizziness or nausea are often interpreted as something else, leading to unnecessary deaths each year

Experts convene in Mexico to call for better understanding of heart disease in women

Health professionals, policy experts and scientists from around the world are today uniting at the 5th International Conference of Women, Heart Disease and Stroke to address the epidemic of cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) in women.

Despite there being general awareness of CVDs (which includes heart disease and stroke), they’re still the number one killer of women around the world[1], responsible for over two million premature deaths in women each year[2].

Women in low and middle-income countries who develop CVDs are more likely to die from it than those living elsewhere in the world, and these deaths are predicted to increase over the next decade[3] unless more is done to tackle the problem now.

The conference is taking place on the first day of the World Heart Federation’s World Congress of Cardiology and Cardiovascular Health in Mexico City, 4 – 7 June, and is co-sponsored by the American Heart Association. Participants will discuss the reasons behind the prevalence of CVDs and the latest approaches to prevention, treatment and management of CVDs in women. Discussions will also focus on how public awareness campaigns like Go Red for Women can make a real difference to women’s understanding of their risk of CVDs.

The signs and symptoms of heart disease in women can differ from those in men and so can be more easily missed or attributed to other illnesses. Women also often wait longer to go to A&E when having a heart attack. This means that women are more likely than men to die from a heart attack and are also more likely to be seriously disabled or have problems following a stroke.[4]

Dr Kathryn Taubert, Vice President of Global Strategies for the American Heart Association and co-chair of the conference, said: “Along with people from minority backgrounds, women have historically been under-represented in clinical trials so there has been a lack of awareness about how the symptoms of CVDs can differ from those that often present in men, and many women and even some health professionals still attribute some of their symptoms to something else. Now we need to catch up. We know that women who are diagnosed early on and offered appropriately tailored treatment options have vastly improved outcomes, no matter where they live in the world.”

Although chest pain is the most common symptom of a heart attack for both men and women, women are more likely to experience some of the less common symptoms such as:

– Shortness of breath

– Pain in the back, jaw or stomach

– Extreme fatigue

– Nausea / vomiting

– Feeling dizzy, light-headed or even fainting[5].

These symptoms are often mistaken as something else by both women themselves and health professionals.

Johanna Ralston, Chief Executive Officer of the World Heart Federation, commented: “Preventing and managing CVDs in women is absolutely vital if we are to meet the target of reducing CVD deaths by 25% by 2025. As well as educating health professionals we need women to know what to look out for – many women today think cancer is the biggest threat to their health when in fact it’s their heart.”

*Numbers of premature cardiovascular deaths in 2013 and estimates in 2025 for adults 30-70 by super-region
premature cardiovascular deaths

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