Up until very recently (like, just a few months ago) I was like many–if not most–women out there in the world: I thought that breast cancer was the leading cause of death for women. And why wouldn’t I? We are constantly bombarded with awareness campaigns, commercials and reminders from our doctors and peers to check our bodies and look out for the signs. So you can imagine my shock when I was informed that breast cancer isn’t in fact the #1 killer of women around the world, it’s heart disease and stroke. In fact, here in Canada, heart disease and stroke claim the life of a woman every 17 minutes.
That’s right, despite what we’ve been lead to believe, women are just as (if not more) at risk of dying from heart disease and stroke than men. Unfortunately, a lot of this has to do with the fact there just isn’t as much funding that’s put towards research and awareness for women’s heart and brain health.
It’s hard to believe that in today’s age of information and advancement that this is even possible, and I’m so thankful that the Heart & Stroke foundation is dedicated to igniting change to stop women from dying unnecessarily. In fact, this year they’ve launched a women’s awareness campaign called #TimeToSeeRed that was kicked off with a powerful and chilling video that you can watch HERE (and below).
Here are some alarming facts that will give you a better idea of what we’re dealing with:
More Women Die Than Men
More than 62,000 strokes occur in Canada each year; over 30,200 of these happen to women. One-third more women die of stroke than men in Canada; of all deaths from stroke, 59% are women, 41% are men.
We Experience Different Symptoms
Women may present with different symptoms than men when they have a TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack) aka a mini-stroke that’s not to be taken lightly — it’s often a sign that a more serious stroke may occur. Symptoms for TIA’s can be tingling, numbness, instability, vision disturbance, or speech and motor symptoms of a shorter period of time.
Women Have Worse Outcomes Than Men
Women who have had a stroke have worse outcomes than men; there are more activity limitations and lower overall levels of mental and physical well-being. Women are less likely to go home after stroke; almost twice as many women as men go to longterm care instead.
We Don’t Know The Risk Factors
Almost 75% of all men and women admitted to hospital for stroke have at least one stroke risk factor. Many women are not aware of the risk factors; according to a poll from the Heart & Stroke Foundation, 70% of women don’t know any of them.
But there are some things we can all start doing today to change the conversation and protect our health. After all, knowledge is power.
Make Sure You Know ‘FAST’
Face – is it drooping to one side?
Arms – can you raise both?
Speech – is it slurred or jumbled?
Time – it’s time to call 911 right away
Get Familiar with Sign & Symptoms
Heart & Stroke has a section on their website that’s dedicated to helping you get familiar with the signs and symptoms of heart disease and stroke in women. Reading up on women’s unique risk factors is a great place to start.
Take a Risk Assessment
Do you know how at risk you are? There’s a good chance you don’t, so take 7 minutes to gain insight into your family history and health conditions by completing Heart & Stroke’s online risk assessment.
Start Your #HeartHealthChallenge
Taking care of your heart, body and mind is obviously the first step in the right direction. The Heart & Stroke foundation has kicked off a #HeartHealthChallenge that provides a fun and simple way to help guide you through the small lifestyle changes that can have a big impact on your health.
If you’re ready to take part in the demand for change, it’s time to take action. This can be by making a donation, volunteering, participating in research studies or lending your voice to help save lives. For a full list of how you can take action, please click HERE.
For more information on Heart & Stroke’s #TimeToSeeRed women’s campaign please visit heartandstroke.ca/women
(Story by Editor-in-Chief, Gracie Carroll)