Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Are Women Putting Their Health at Risk?

Careers, childcare and other responsibilities can all cause women to delay or go without healthcare, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

But, good health is a key part of the equation. Without it, there is no driving to and from work, taking care of children, or checking off chores on a to-do list.

At a recent Heart Health for Women seminar, Dr. Irfan A. Khan shared the story of a patient who learned the value of her health when it was almost too late.

Preparing for a vacation, she had spent the day packing and cleaning her house. She felt terrible as she did so but kept her complaints to herself because she had too many things to do.

Her daughter, a nurse, knew that her mother’s symptoms were a sign of something bigger. She measured her heart rate at 25 beats per minute, 45 beats lower than normal. When the patient sought medical care – a day and a half after her symptoms began – a pacemaker was installed, without which she wouldn’t have survived.

Stories like this one aren’t uncommon, especially in the case of heart disease.

The symptoms of heart disease in women – chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea, sweating, and fatigue – aren’t what many consider serious. These nebulous symptoms, plus a woman’s desire not to be a bother, “is a recipe for disaster,” said Dr. Khan.

The issue is so important that the American Heart Association teamed up with actress Elizabeth Banks to drive home the message that health matters.

Banks said, "As women, we take care of everyone in our lives: our husbands, our kids, our mothers, our fathers, but we never look at ourselves. So this little film is about a super mom who takes care of everyone except herself and learns the lesson that she better look at herself, as well."

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