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Moms not heart smart Feb. 4, 2013
Written by: Marilyn Linton, QMI Agency

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Listen up, ladies -- it’s time for a heart-to-heart. Contrary to what we’ve heard, symptoms in women who are having a heart attack are NOT that different than those experienced by men. Yes, an umpteen number of websites and publications claim that when women have heart attacks, they have entirely different symptoms from men. Not so, says Toronto’s Dr. Beth Abramson, a cardiologist at St. Michael’s Hospital and author of the new book, Heart Health for Canadians: The Definitive Guide.

“There’s definitely confusion out there. But women are more similar to than different from men when it comes to their hearts. At the end of the day, the commonest symptom for women experiencing a heart attack is chest pain.”

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Dr. Abramson feels that the story that women’s symptoms are different is mostly a myth. She does admit that women are different in the way we communicate and report on heart disease. If heart attacks are not top of mind, for instance, many women would pass off symptoms as indigestion. “Women need to realize that this is their health threat.” Not only does someone die every seven minutes in Canada from heart disease or stroke, but these are also equal opportunity killers.

In fact, the death rates from cardiovascular disease in women are on the rise. The reasons are not entirely clear, but Dr. Abramson suggests there may be a difference in the care some women receive: They may not be treated by a cardiovascular specialist or they may not be transferred to a cardiac facility if they’re at a smaller hospital without a specialty unit.

Women tend to “be everything to everyone but themselves,” she says, recalling the patient who waited until the charity gala she was organizing was over before going to hospital. “I call it the Type E personality. It’s deeply concerning to me that many women would rather tick off the last five items on their to-do list than go to an emergency room when they need one most.”

The Type E personality comes to mind when reading The Mom Report, a new Becel/Leger Marketing survey. In it, over two-thirds of moms prioritize their kids over themselves; 60% of moms say them don’t have enough time to take care of themselves; and 57% say they are letting their family down when they focus on themselves. “I can relate to that,” says Winnipeg dietitian Gina Sunderland. “I am the last one to bed, the first one up and I feel guilty if I am not at every soccer practice or swim meet.

A few years back when Sunderland turned 40, however, she realized that she had let herself down by not focusing more on her health. “My stress was affected, as was my sleep and my weight. I didn’t feel well and was not walking the walk I talk.” Today, after gifting herself a gym membership, she’s back on track. “I drop my kids off at swimming practice, then zoom on to yoga. When I pick them up, I am a new person.”

Berry nice

According to a recent study in Circulation, young and middle-aged women who consume more than three servings of strawberries or blueberries each week had a lower risk of heart attack. The fruits contain certain flavonoids which have cardio-protective effects which are anti-inflammatory and plaque stabilizing.

Tell the truth

Women put ourselves last, always have

We think there’s only so much time in a day

We need to shuffle our priorities so we are one of them

Heart disease and stroke is a leading killer of women, so take the time to be there for yourself – www.heartandstroke.ca; www.thehearttruth.ca

 

MORE COLUMNS BY MARILYN LINTON, QMI AGENCY

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