February is Heart Month

I couldn't let the month go by without drawing attention to the fact that it is Heart Month!

Did you know that heart disease is the number one killer of women in Canada?  It's a sobering fact for sure.  I was blissfully unaware until I had a spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD) in 2018.

What is even scarier about SCAD is it hits women who otherwise may have none of the typical risk factors for cardiovascular disease, and it can impact younger women of childbearing age.

As the Life in Hearts website states:

"Many women are unaware of their risk to develop heart disease...yet heart disease is the leading cause of premature death for Canadian women...One woman dies every sixteen minutes..."

A big part of February for woman like me, survivors of some sort of cardiac event, living with heart disease or heart failure, is increasing awareness, hence this post.

It's important to know what your risk factors are. The checklist below is intended to prompt conversation about this between your and your primary care provider. 


As well, it's important to understand that women don't always have the same symptoms as men do.  Symptoms such as, chest pain or pain radiating down the left arm, aren't always present.  

Symptoms can be more subtle or their onset happens when a woman is resting. Because of symptoms similar to anxiety or acid reflux, women, and sometimes care provider, chalk the symptoms up to other causes. 

According to the New Jersey Cardiovascular Institute, women are more likely than men to have more subtle heart attack symptoms that may be unrelated to the chest.  You could be having a heart attack if you experience pain in your:

  • Arms
  • Shoulder
  • Upper back
  • Abdomen
  • Neck
  • Jaw

Heart attack symptoms unrelated to physical pain include:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Indigestion
Learning to recognize the more subtle symptoms can help you identify a cardiac event sooner before permanent damage occurs. You also need to be aware that symptoms can last for days as well. So while you might think you've picked up a bug or flu, you could be having a heart attack.

Know your risks.  Get educated. Talk to your female friends and relatives. Talk to your healthcare provider. Spread the word!  

"Her Heart Matters" is not an accidental slogan in February. It's true, her heart does matter.  And so does yours. 


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