Statistics show that about 130 heart attacks and 240 strokes occur daily in South Africa, which means that 10 people have a stroke and five have a heart attack every hour, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
About 110 women die of cardiovascular disease in South Africa each day, according to cardiologist Dr Suzette Fourie.
One in four women will have some form of heart condition before the age of 60
Present rates suggest more women are dying of heart disease than men and that they’re unlikely to survive their first attack.
“The problem could be twofold. Either doctors are misdiagnosing women or women are misinterpreting heart attack signs. A heart attack often presents itself differently in women,” she said.
Fourie said typical symptoms such as tightness, discomfort or chest pain might not be present and instead, there could be other sensations, among them an uneasy feeling in the chest, abdominal pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck or jaw, a fluttering heartbeat, shortness of breath, cold sweats and even swollen feet.
“As these symptoms could be related to any number of illnesses, women tend to dismiss the fact that they may be sick and often delay going to the hospital, which increases their risk of dying as a result of a heart attack.”
Fourie said heart disease in men was more often due to blockages in their coronary arteries while women more frequently developed heart disease within the smaller arteries branching out from the coronary arteries. Women needed to change their perceptions about heart disease.
“We need to put the fact that we are vulnerable to heart disease on our radar screens and recognise the signs. You are never too young or too old to take care of your heart.”
Approximately 6.3 million South Africans are living with high blood pressure, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
One in four women will have some form of heart condition before the age of 60 and once they reach menopause, the risk of heart disease increases threefold.
Premature deaths due to heart and blood vessel diseases in people of working age (35 to 64) are expected to increase by 41% between 2016 and 2030, the Foundation says.