Two figures standout: 90% and 42%.
90% - The percentage of women experiencing significant chest pain prior to having a heart attack.
42% - The percentage of women who think the chest pain is related to their heart.
A recent study of women's heart attacks, conducted at Yale, highlights the differences in attitude and perception between men and women. Men have been warned about heart attacks so persistently, virtually everyone is acutely aware of their symptoms. Should a man experience chest pain, it would not be surprising for his five-year-old daughter to volunteer, "Dad, you're probably having a cardiac event."
Not so with women.
The Yale study found a significant lack of awareness among women 55 and younger concerning heart related risk. This may be due to the relatively small numbers of women treated for heart disease each year. Women represent only 5% of all hospitalized heart disease patients in any given year. Yet, they still account for 16,000 deaths each year; this is on a par with the number of annual deaths due to breast cancer.
In addition to significant chest pain, the women studied also reported these symptoms:
58% - pain in the jaw or shoulder
38% - sweating
29% - nausea
29% - shortness of breath
21% - indigestion or heartburn
8% - weakness or fatigue
The stakes are high. The report finds that women with heart disease are twice as likely to die in the hospital as men. Further, only 56% of the women who had seen their primary physician for their symptoms were diagnosed as having a heart related ailment. Family history is especially significant - 88% of those studies had an immediate family member with a history of heart disease.
The researchers conclude both women and doctors need to rethink their perceptions. Doctors may have to take off their men-only specs and pay more heed to women's symptoms indicating heart related complications. Women also need to scrap the "it's only men who have heart attacks" idea and pay closer attention to what their bodies are saying - or, screaming.
As always, avoiding risk is critical. So, not smoking, watching your weight, exercising and lowering your cholesterol are all excellent investments in your present and future health.
What - another number? OK - how about...
100% - The percentage of women who will benefit by paying attention to the health of their heart.To read more about the study, see this from ScienceDaily. To read more about women and cardiovascular disease, see this from the American Heart Association.