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HomeBlogMore men suffer but more women die of CVD

More men suffer but more women die of CVD

By: Sigal Atzmon
More men suffer but more women die of CVD

Understanding how cardiovascular disease impacts men and women differently is key to saving lives. So is better access to digital healthcare.

For almost two years, the world’s attention has understandably been focused on the deadly Covid-19 pandemic. Authorities in 222 countries and territories have reported more than 230 million cases and 4.9 million deaths since the first cases were flagged to the World Health Organization (WHO) in December 2019.


Meanwhile, there is another disease in our midst that is quietly yet quickly taking lives. In fact, this disease has resulted in almost 18 million deaths a year, making it four times more deadly than Covid-19!


This silent killer is cardiovascular disease (CVD). It is also the world’s biggest. According to WHO, an estimated 17.9 million people died from CVDs in 2019, representing 32% of all global deaths. Of these fatalities, 85% were due to heart attack or stroke.


It is crucial to detect cardiovascular disease as early as possible so management, with counseling and medicines, can quickly be introduced. This will minimize and ideally, prevent, the onset of heart failure, cardiac arrest, or heart attacks.


However, due to the pandemic, detection and management of CVD has been challenging because people – especially the vulnerable and at-risk - have been advised to shelter at home. As a result, many are either reluctant, or afraid to go to hospitals and clinics, potentially missing life-saving medical appointments. Being confined indoors also removes the health benefits that come from physical activities such as exercise. 


What can be done? Digital technology provides one very effective solution to help fight cardiovascular diseases.


We are seeing it being used as a tool to facilitate access for disease prevention and patient treatment. Technology and data is helping us to bridge the gap and the progress has been significant.


The goal of digital health is to enable and empower people, wherever they are, to use digital tools for better prevention, diagnosis and care of heart-related conditions. This applies to every one of us - young, old, men, women, children, patients, community health workers, and doctors.


Digital networks have the power to connect patients with anyone they need help from, be it from the comfort of families and friends to doctors and specialists, real-time, seven days a week, 24 hours a day.


Understand your symptoms


In addition, when it comes to heart attacks, knowing the difference between male and female heart attack symptoms could save your life. Here are four surprising facts you might not know about heart attacks and the difference between male and female symptoms:


Firstly, men tend to suffer more heart attacks on average, at a younger age, than women (65 years old for men in the US compared to 72 years for women). However more women die of heart attacks than men. Among the reasons for this high mortality rate (women, on average, have a longer life expectancy), is a lack of reporting by women. Some are unaware they have even experienced one.


Limited awareness leads to less appropriate treatments, which, in turn, dramatically lowers survival rates. Countless lives would be saved if that cycle were reversed.


Secondly, women experiencing heart attacks tend to have more “neoclassical" symptoms than men. Women report different symptoms and rarely relate them to heart attacks, often mistaking them for “the flu” or “a stomach bug”.


Thirdly, one US study found that women are 12 times more likely to experience throat discomfort during heart attacks, 3.7 times more likely to experience indigestion and 3.9 times more likely to vomit.  Women are also more likely to experience shortness of breath, without chest discomfort - they feel like they’ve run a marathon but haven’t exerted any excessive energy. This is accompanied by pain or discomfort in the arms, back, and jaw.


Fourthly, the same US study found that men are 4.7 times more likely to experience right-sided chest discomfort and 3.9 times more likely to report a general dull ache.  On average, it takes men three hours to call for medical assistance when having a heart attack. Women take four hours.


Early detection and treatment is key to survival when experiencing a heart attack. It's never too early to ask for help, or making lifestyle changes that will reduce your risk: stopping smoking, eating a better diet, doing more exercise and getting your blood pressure levels checked on a regular basis.

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