Every hour of every day an Australian woman loses her life to heart disease.
And between the hours of 2pm and 3pm on Saturday 21 August 2010 that woman was my mother.
Patricia Elizabeth Kettle.
She was a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a sister, a cousin, an aunt, a friend.
She was only 74 years old.
She was probably the member of my family who most looked after her health. She was very conscious about what she ate, and she very diligently exercised. She even joined a gym a few months before she died so she could do more weight bearing exercise.
She was very healthy (so we thought), and she lived her life utterly, absolutely and completely.
She loved every minute of it.
And it was cruelly cut short by heart disease that, until about 48 hours before her death, she didn’t realise she had.
Her death left a massive void in our lives.
What many people don’t realise is that heart disease is the #1 killer of Australian women (and American women, and British women, and women of many, many other countries). Not breast cancer, not stroke, not any other disease. But heart disease.
Why is this I hear you ask? Well, there are many reasons.
According to the World Health Organisation cardiovascular disease in women is often unrecognised, and therefore undiagnosed. In part this is because they show different symptoms to men. Furthermore, women are less likely to seek medical help (possibly because they don’t recognise the symptoms) and therefore may not get appropriate care until it is too late. This was certainly the case with mum.
So, I hear you ask, what exactly are those symptoms?
Well there are two types. The ones you can’t control – your age, your ethnicity and your family history. And the ones you can control. The lifestyle factors. If you can relate to any of these, your risk of heart disease is greater:
- if you smoke
- are overweight
- have high cholesterol
- are diabetic
- have high blood pressure
- are physically inactive.
There are many symptoms of heart disease. The most common is angina or chest pain, but not everyone with heart disease will get this. Other symptoms to look out for include:
- shortness of breath
- heart palpitations
- a faster heartbeat
- weakness or dizziness
- tingling feelings in your arms.
And yes, these can be symptoms of many, many things. However if in doubt, get it checked out.
Make an appointment to talk to your GP.
If you’re having chest pains call triple zero (000) or your emergency services number. Don’t dilly dally. Trust me, an ambulance officer would rather your chest pains be nothing than for you to have a heart attack and die.
Thursday 11 June 2015 is Go Red for Women Day in Australia. This day is intended to raise awareness and money to help stop so many women dying from heart disease. To find out more visit Go Red for Women at goredforwomen.org.au.
And if you have ANY doubt about your heart health, please, please, please see a doctor.