February 6, 2024

Five things all women should know about their hearts


(Photo: John Ulan)

Five times more women die from heart disease than from breast cancer. Yet many women don’t realize that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of premature death for women in Canada.

Although treatments and outcomes of cardiovascular diseases are known to be different between men and women, women continue to be underdiagnosed, undertreated, undersupported and under-researched, according to Colleen Norris, professor and associate dean in the Faculty of Nursing.

The “Hollywood heart attack” stereotype doesn’t fit women, says Norris, which means their symptoms are often missed. The causes of heart attack and the risk factors are also very different between men and women. Some of the risks for women can arise at an unexpectedly early age.

Cardiac researchers like Norris want Canadians to know the risks specific to women — and to share that knowledge with all the women they know on Wear Red Day.

“If you ask Canadian women what they are afraid of, they will say breast cancer,” says Norris. “The idea of Wear Red Day is to educate and advocate about women’s heart health.”

Norris is co-chair of the Prairie working group of the Canadian Women’s Heart Health Alliance, Cavarzan Chair in Mature Women’s Health Research and director of the Women’s Heart Health Research Collaborative at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women.

Here is some of the information she wants women and health-care professionals to know.

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