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Scientists Say the Assumption That Men Suffer More From Heart Attack Puts Women’s Health at Risk

Scientists Say the Assumption That Men Suffer More From Heart Attack Puts Women’s Health at Risk

Do you think that gender will not make any difference to your chances of survival after a heart attack? Wrong! You probably assume that whether you are a man or a woman, you will get the same preventive and post-cardiac attack treatment. Wrong again, I am afraid.

Two important studies reveal a rather alarming type of sexism in cardiac treatment. It seems that the general impression among the public, and even doctors, is that men are more likely to suffer from a heart attack. This belief is affecting the way women are being treated, and they are also more at risk because certain assumptions are made that not so many women have heart attacks.

Heart disease in men and women

The reality is that heart disease kills men and women in equal numbers. Guess which is the number one killer of women in the USA? You might think breast cancer but no, it is heart disease. It also accounts for about 22% of all women’s deaths, according to CDC figures for 2013.

In the UK, it is estimated that more women die from heart failure than men—82,000 women versus 79,000 men, annually.

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But women do not get the same heart health screening procedures. If you talk to Martha Gulati, a cardiologist at Ohio State University, she will tell you that in spite of the statistics, men are treated more thoroughly than women. Her book, Saving Women’s Hearts: How You Can Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease With Natural and Conventional Strategies has highlighted this emergency.

Does this actually affect the way women are warned about the risks? The answer is an alarming yes. The first study revealed that as many as 11% of women are less likely to be told that they are at risk when they are diagnosed with diabetes, high cholesterol and blood pressure, becoming overweight, and if they smoke.

The study revealed the medical records of over 3,500 patients.

About 66% of the patients investigated were women. Both the men and women were all at risk of heart disease from obesity, hypertension, and high cholesterol.

The alarming results of the study showed that women were less likely to get clinical advice about their heart attack risks.

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“Young women cannot afford to be continually less informed than men about their risk for heart disease.”

—Erica Leifheit-Limson, researcher in the study.

Even more alarming is the fact that a woman arriving for emergency treatment for a heart attack is less likely to get the crucial life-saving procedures than a man would. As a result, their chances of death are higher. In fact, 4.5% of women were more likely to die from a heart attack in hospital, compared to about 3% for men.

Why this is an emergency for women

This is not just a gender gap issue—it is an emergency. One reason is that lifestyle modification advice may be directed more towards men because of the erroneous beliefs which persist. There are also slightly different symptoms in women such as nausea, vomiting, and sweating as mentioned on the WebMD site.

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Another problem is that life-saving procedures such as inserting stents and unblocking arteries are more aggressively pursued for men.

It is also shocking to know that many doctors seem to regard women as being less likely to have a heart attack, in spite of the figures.

Take the case of Rachel Boothroyd (37) who was working as a lawyer in London. Both her doctor and cardiologist dismissed her alarming neck, chest and arm pains as being not as fit as she used to be! She continued to go swimming in spite of severe pain but she could have had a fatal heart attack. Fortunately, her condition was finally diagnosed but she risked her life.

“Because I was a woman, no one thought of it. They kept saying, ‘I’m sure there won’t be anything in it.’”

—Rachel Boothroyd

How women can protect themselves

Keeping an eye on your health will be crucial in determining your risks. Monitor your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, diet, and make lifestyle changes if necessary. The British Heart Foundation has set up the Women’s Room to help women do just that. This is the best protection and there will be no need to rely on out of date myths about more men having heart attacks. Women have hearts too!

Featured photo credit: Strawberry heart, a heart within a heart/ *sax via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on June 13, 2019

5 Fixes For Common Sleep Issues All Couples Deal With

5 Fixes For Common Sleep Issues All Couples Deal With

Sleeping next to your partner can be a satisfying experience and is typically seen as the mark of a stable, healthy home life. However, many more people struggle to share a bed with their partner than typically let on. Sleeping beside someone can decrease your sleep quality which negatively affects your life. Maybe you are light sleepers and you wake each other up throughout the night. Maybe one has a loud snoring habit that’s keeping the other awake. Maybe one is always crawling into bed in the early hours of the morning while the other likes to go to bed at 10 p.m.

You don’t have to feel ashamed of finding it difficult to sleep with your partner and you also don’t have to give up entirely on it. Common problems can be addressed with simple solutions such as an additional pillow. Here are five fixes for common sleep issues that couples deal with.

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1. Use a bigger mattress to sleep through movement

It can be difficult to sleep through your partner’s tossing and turning all night, particularly if they have to get in and out of bed. Waking up multiple times in one night can leave you frustrated and exhausted. The solution may be a switch to a bigger mattress or a mattress that minimizes movement.

Look for a mattress that allows enough space so that your partner can move around without impacting you or consider a mattress made for two sleepers like the Sleep Number bed.[1] This bed allows each person to choose their own firmness level. It also minimizes any disturbances their partner might feel. A foam mattress like the kind featured in advertisements where someone jumps on a bed with an unspilled glass of wine will help minimize the impact of your partner’s movements.[2]

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2. Communicate about scheduling conflicts

If one of you is a night owl and the other an early riser, bedtime can become a source of conflict. It’s hard for a light sleeper to be jostled by their partner coming to bed four hours after them. Talk to your partner about negotiating some compromises. If you’re finding it difficult to agree on a bedtime, negotiate with your partner. Don’t come to bed before or after a certain time, giving the early bird a chance to fully fall asleep before the other comes in. Consider giving the night owl an eye mask to allow them to stay in bed while their partner gets up to start the day.

3. Don’t bring your technology to bed

If one partner likes bringing devices to bed and the other partner doesn’t, there’s very little compromise to be found. Science is pretty unanimous on the fact that screens can cause harm to a healthy sleeper. Both partners should agree on a time to keep technology out of the bedroom or turn screens off. This will prevent both partners from having their sleep interrupted and can help you power down after a long day.

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4. White noise and changing positions can silence snoring

A snoring partner can be one of the most difficult things to sleep through. Snoring tends to be position-specific so many doctors recommend switching positions to stop the snoring. Rather than sleeping on your back doctors recommend turning onto your side. Changing positions can cut down on noise and breathing difficulties for any snorer. Using a white noise fan, or sound machine can also help soften the impact of loud snoring and keep both partners undisturbed.

5. Use two blankets if one’s a blanket hog

If you’ve got a blanket hog in your bed don’t fight it, get another blanket. This solution fixes any issues between two partners and their comforter. There’s no rule that you have to sleep under the same blanket. Separate covers can also cut down on tossing and turning making it a multi-useful adaptation.

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Rather than giving up entirely on sharing a bed with your partner, try one of these techniques to improve your sleeping habits. Sleeping in separate beds can be a normal part of a healthy home life, but compromise can go a long way toward creating harmony in a shared bed.

Featured photo credit: Becca Tapert via unsplash.com

Reference

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