A MUM who believed her heart attack was indigestion and waited hours before seeking medical treatment is urging other women to be more aware of symptoms.
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) wants to quash the perception that heart attack is a male disease. The heart charity also wants women to better understand their risk of a heart attack and its symptoms.
It was back in February 2016 when Angela Flynn suddenly felt unwell while at work. The Bishop’s Itchington resident was just 42 at the time.
She said: “I was living a healthy lifestyle and work was keeping me very active.
“All of a sudden, I was hit by a number of sensations. One of the first I had was excruciating pain across both of my elbow joints – it felt like someone was pinching and squeezing my elbows at the same time. This was followed by feeling breathless, faint (which I thought was low blood sugar), hot flushes and nausea. I also remember having this feeling of dread that I just needed to get into my car and go home.”
The mum-of-one then began to feel pain in her stomach, which she dismissed as indigestion. She drove home and took indigestion tablets, before getting into bed to try and ease the pain.
But the symptoms persisted and Angela rang her local GP surgery who booked her in for an emergency appointment. More than five hours after Angela had first suffered symptoms, she drove to her GP surgery where doctors carried out a blood pressure reading and an ECG test.
Angela added: “I was also asked about my family history and I explained that heart and circulatory disease was rife in my family. Both my dad and grandad died following a heart attack, my uncle had a stroke and my mum died from vascular dementia.”
The GP was concerned with Angela’s family history and results from the blood pressure and ECG tests, so called an ambulance. Further tests were carried out and it was confirmed Angela was suffering a heart attack.
Angela was rushed to hospital where she underwent an emergency procedure which involved fitting three stents to open up the vessels and improve the blood supply to her heart.
But the procedure was a success and Angela was able to get back onto her feet thanks to cardiac rehabilitation. She is now getting adjusted to living with heart disease.
Angela, now 46, added: “It has made me aware of what an amazing thing the body is and I appreciate mine a lot more now. I don’t stress over the small things anymore as most things have a way of sorting themselves out. I am learning to live more in the moment and recognise now the importance to stop and take time for myself, and that it’s ok to do so.
“However, I know I am very lucky and that it could have been a completely different experience if I delayed treatment any longer. That’s why I’m backing the BHF’s call for more women to better understand their risk of a heart attack and its symptoms.”
In the West Midlands alone, around 3,100 women are admitted to hospital following a heart attack each year. The BHF estimates around 33,000 women in the West Midlands, like Angela, have survived a heart attack.
By combining some of the latest evidence with first-hand patient stories, the BHF’s new briefing shows women often delay seeking medical help, reducing their chance of survival.
BHF-funded research estimates more than 8,000 women in England and Wales alone died over a decade because they did not receive equal treatment to men.
Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, consultant cardiologist and BHF associate medical director, said: “Heart attacks have never been more treatable.
“Yet women are dying needlessly because heart attacks are often seen as a man’s disease, and women don’t receive the same standard of treatment as men. The studies detailed in this briefing have revealed inequalities at every stage of a woman’s medical journey. The reasons for this are complex to dissect. Together, we must change this.
“The first steps to closing this gender gap include changing the public perception of women and heart attacks. The assumption that women are not at risk of heart attack is false, and has proven to be deadly.”
“As a starting point, we want to empower women to better understand their risk and to know the many symptoms of a heart attack. When someone has a heart attack – every second counts. The sooner people recognise their symptoms and call 999, the better their chance of recovery.
“In addition, we need to continue to fund research to better prevent, diagnose and treat heart attacks. We also need to raise national awareness of gender-based inequalities in heart attack care and identify and guard against unconscious biases that could contribute to them.”
Visit www.bhf.org.uk/women for further details.