Women to be alert to second heart attack

It’s a stereotype that women take care of their bodies better than men.


But when it comes to heart health, they don’t.

Women underestimate the impact of a heart attack on their health and are less likely to take the steps necessary to keep them out of hospital a second time, says Heart Foundation spokeswoman Julie Anne Mitchell.

Every year 36,000 men and 19,000 women are admitted to hospital for a heart attack.

But despite this gap, almost the same number of men as women die from one: 4,700 men and 4,500 women each year.

This is because women survivors of heart attacks are more likely than men to die from a second heart attack, says Ms Mitchell.

And this is due to women not making the necessary changes to their lifestyle, “rushing home from the hospital to pick up where they left off”, and failing to undertake a rehabilitation program.

Mother-of-one Ann Keegan had a heart attack when she was out walking one day in 2008.

“I went out for a walk and I kept getting breathless and having these chest pains,” says the Sydney mum.

“I thought I’ll have a shower and I’ll feel better.”

Later in the day she visited the doctor and was quickly transferred to hospital.

The 58-year-old said despite having a history of heart problems in her family, she didn’t believe it would happen to her.

“My message is don’t ignore your family history.

“And be vigilant, go and see a doctor and tell them about the history in your family, ask to get check you out, check your cholesterol.”

After the heart attack Ms Keegan undertook a cardiac rehabilitation course at Westmead Hospital.

But Heart Foundation research shows at present, only a quarter of women heart attack survivors complete a six to eight week cardiac rehab program.

A Heart Foundation survey of 504 heart attack survivors found while 56 per cent of men were advised to completed a cardiac rehabilitation course only 43 per cent of women were.

Ms Mitchell said those who attend cardiac rehabilitation, improve their lifestyle and take medication as directed, do far better than those that don’t.

The Heart Foundation is urging all women aged over 45 to see their doctors and have a heart health check that will rate their chance of having a heart attack in the next five years.