Women are disproportionately impacted by heart disease, health officials say
MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - February is National Heart Month and according to the American Heart Association, 350,000 Americans die from heart disease each year, but the condition disproportionally affects women.
Heart disease first took Mary Zillman by surprise in 2004.
“I thought it was acid reflux because my stomach, but my hands were blue and my feet were blue and my husband said, ‘we better take you in,’ so I went in and yes, I did have a heart attack.”
Years went by and after receiving an encouraging echocardiography, Zillman thought she was in the clear, but she was wrong.
“I didn’t think too much about it and summer was along and we were finishing doing all the work and I was tired and I was out of breath a lot, which I thought was unusual. Came home from dinner with my daughter and I guess I took my blood pressure or something, I don’t even remember, that’s a total blank. But I remember calling 911.”
Cardiologist at SSM Health Andrea Rock said women are not only more likely to get heart disease, but they are less likely to be offered help in public. According to the American Heart Association, women are 6% less likely to receive CPR in bystander situation.
“I don’t think it’s a lack of wanting to help at all, I think it’s a feeling of ‘CPR is really personal, I only practiced this on a dummy without breasts, I only practiced this with a plastic person,’” Rock said. “Adding that new element of the victim being a woman changes it just enough that it makes it harder for people to act in the way that they would have even expected themselves.”
But Rock said there are skills everyone can learn to help save lives.
“We know CPR saves lives. Adequate, immediate CPR can raise your chances of surviving a cardiac arrest, double or triple times what they would be without CPR. It is critically important.”
For a 90-minute instructional video on how to effectively administer Hands-Only CPR, visit https://cpr.heart.org/en/training-programs/community-programs/be-the-beat.
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