Labor MLA Dr Marisa Paterson will today call on the ACT Government to improve understanding of the impact of cardiovascular disease on women.
Her proposal calls on the ACT Government to improve data collection and reporting and raise awareness of cardiovascular disease in women through community campaigns.
“The inequalities in health outcomes for women with CVD compared to men are significant and highlight the need for both the ACT and Federal Government to do more to ensure that women with CVD do not have worse outcomes,” Dr Paterson said.
According to the Heart Foundation, cardiovascular disease in women is under-recognized, under-treated and under-researched. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death and disease among Australian women; recent data suggest that hospitalizations for cardiovascular disease are increasing among young women. Overall, however, the number of hospitalizations for women is significantly lower than for men.
“The statistics are really worrying,” Dr Paterson said. “Women have significantly lower hospital visits when they show signs of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack. Medical follow-up from one year to four years after a heart attack is significantly less in women.”
One reason may be that women usually do not have the “classic” symptoms of a heart attack.
“Women experience heart disease differently than men,” said David Lloyd, chief executive of the Heart Foundation. “It is important for the public and health professionals to be aware of risk factors (such as depression, early menopause and polycystic ovary syndrome) and warning signs of a heart attack (including non-chest pain symptoms such as jaw, shoulder or back pain). nausea or vomiting, dizziness, shortness of breath, indigestion or fatigue) that are specific to women.”
These symptoms can develop slowly over hours or days, and even come and go. Women and medical staff may also attribute symptoms to other medical conditions, such as digestive disorders, which can lead to misdiagnoses.
Dr Paterson said: “We need to improve data collection on everything related to cardiovascular disease with gender in mind to ensure equality in healthcare. We also clearly have a lot of work to do in the community to raise awareness of how the symptoms present themselves in women and what you should do if you experience these symptoms.”
In 2020, according to the ACT, 48 people out of 100,000 died from coronary heart disease, which is comparable to the national average (49 per 100,000).
In 2019, the ACT had the lowest age-standardised rate of hospitalization for coronary heart disease in Australia, at 29 per 10,000 – compared to a national average of 55, according to the Heart Foundation.
Mr Lloyd welcomed the proposal. “It helps bring into focus an important issue, which is the distinctive experience of women with cardiovascular disease.”
The Heart Foundation also encourages women aged 45 or over to ask their GP for a Medicare-subsidised heart check.
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