One in every four American women will die from cardiovascular disease each year, more than the number of deaths from breast cancer, stroke and lung cancer combined, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Cardiologists from Allegheny Health Network are looking to improve those odds.
Doctors are hosting a series of educational programs beginning next week titled “Take Healthy Living to Heart" to educate more women about dangerous heart conditions and their warning signs.
Dr. Amy Schuett, medical director of Allegheny General Hospital’s coronary care unit, said women are likely to call 9-1-1 for someone else who might be having a heart attack, but less so for themselves.
“In general, they’re going to be caretakers for other people,” Schuett said. “Whereas, with themselves, they tend to internalize some of these symptoms and not necessarily think it’s a serious event.”
A 2009 American Heart Association Study found that 79 percent of women would request immediate medical assistance if they saw somebody having a heart attack, but only 53 percent of women would call 9-1-1 if they were experiencing heart attack symptoms.
That may be because classic heart attack symptoms are not as common in women, Schuett said.
“In men it’s more common to have what people would think of as typical squeezing-type chest pain,” she said. “With women, it’s more likely that they would experience shortness of breath, racing heartbeats or other symptoms, such as fatigue.”
While knowing risk factors is important, Schuett said women can protect themselves also by sharing their health issues with family.
“Know your blood pressure, know your fasting blood sugar, know your cholesterol numbers, and also a big part that sometimes takes place in families is that families don’t necessarily talk about their health problems with others,” she said. “But at some point, you know, make a point to talk to family members.”
The events will run on four dates between Jan. 26 and Feb. 10 at Allegheny Health Network’s Peters Township, Jefferson Hills, Wexford and Murrysville locations. There will be presentations by cardiologists, and light refreshments will be provided.