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Women are more at risk from heart disease

16 April 2012

(From right) Assoc Prof Lam, Guest of Honour Dr Amy Khor, Minister of State for Health, and members of the Singapore Heart Foundation at the Go Red For Women Symposium

A study by the National University Heart Centre, Singapore (NUHCS) on heart disease in Singapore has showed that there are significant differences in symptoms and risk factors of coronary heart disease between the sexes. This was revealed at the Singapore Heart Foundation's annual Go Red For Women Public Symposium, jointly organised with the NUHCS. This year's theme was "Do You Know What Your Top Killer Is?"

Researchers here analysed data on 15,151 heart attack patients, of whom 4,196 were women, between January 2000 and December 2005. The data was collated by the Singapore Cardiac Data Bank on Singaporean patients admitted in public hospitals and institutions across the nation with acute coronary syndrome (ACS). ACS is a set of symptoms related to the blockage of coronary arteries.

NUHCS' Assoc Prof Carolyn Lam, who is a member of the team said: "The information carries important implications for strategies to increase awareness and improve outcomes among Asian women with ACS." She pointed out that women need to be aware that they are also at risk from heart attacks and must be alert to early warning symptoms, so they can seek early medical attention before their disease gets worse.

Female patients may experience more complications than males, such as unexplained fatigue or pain in the jaws, conditions not commonly associated with the heart. They may also have higher risk for coronary heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes and kidney failure.

The findings revealed that the women admitted into the hospitals are on average 10 years older as compared to men. This can be attributed to the drop in oestrogen level after menopause sets in for older women, leading to them seeking treatment later, explained Assoc Prof Lam.

Past surveys by the Singapore Heart Foundation have found that one third of the women felt they were at low risk and could not do anything to prevent a heart attack. Responses showed that almost half of the women did not associate chest pains with heart attacks.