Aging Parents, Caregivers, Heart Health, Heart Risk

Women’s Heart Attack Symptoms and Caregiver Stress

Caregivers help 1.6 million heart failure patients at home–did you know that? Many of us have–or have had–elderly family with heart issues, mine included.

If validation is needed about the importance of heart health and heart risk
–The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call February “Heart Month:
–The National Institutes of Health recognize the month, featuring a February 2015  “tool kit” from the American Heart Assn.
–The American Assn. of Heart Failure Caregivers offers  information especially for caregivers.
–This week, February 7-14, is Congenital Heart Defects Awareness Week.
–February 6th was National Wear Red Day 

Are we all getting the message? Heart disease is the #1 cause of death for men and women. Yet many women are still not aware, evidently. In addition, more caregivers are women, and with caregiving comes stress

Women’s symptoms are listed in the American Heart Association’s “Heart Attack Symptoms in Women (updated 12/5/14). Women either aren’t keenly aware of the symptoms or don’t become as alarmed as they should– or are we simply accustomed to enduring more and/or putting our needs behind those of others?

Clearly caregiving requires putting others’ needs before our own–and we get good at it, don’t we! We can easily feel we’re indispensable. We also know if we get very sick we’re of no help to anyone—but somehow the logic escapes us when we push and overextend ourselves.

A 2013 post “Attention Busy Women Caregivers (Is that an oxymoron?)” is partially reposted here. It features a well-done, entertaining short video “Just A Little Heart Attack,” starring and directed by Emmy-nominated actress, Elizabeth Banks. Worth taking about 3 minutes out of a busy life to watch.

Not wanting to exclude men here, I wondered why I couldn’t find a similar dramatically entertaining video featuring men and heart attacks. These excerpts from the AHA/ASA article may explain the reason. In short,

Many women do not recognize the warning signs or symptoms of heart disease, which may be subtler than those exhibited by men. In addition, only 53% of women said the first thing they would do if they thought they were having a heart attack was to call 9-1-1.


Women age 45 and older are less likely than men of that age group − 74% vs. 81% − to survive a year after their first heart attack. In women, heart disease is too often a silent killer – nearly two-thirds of women who died suddenly had no previous symptoms.

Is it a male-thing to be more attuned to recognizing the symptoms of a heart attack and quickly acting on them?

“Place the mask over your face and mouth, before helping others…” Remembering fight attendants’ speeches preceding a commercial airplane’s take-off resonates here, especially when our goal is to help parents and the elders we care about age well.

Mayo Clinic: Heart Disease: Women–Symptoms and Risk Factors
   Center for Disease Control: Men and Heart Disease Fact Sheet
   American Heart Assn. Recommendation for Physical Activity in
 View:Just A Little Heart Attack 

 Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities and respected professionals, plus practical information–to help parents age well.

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