Women just as prone to heart disease

SINGAPORE - Only one in 10 women knows that heart disease is the top killer of women in Singapore, a recent survey has found.

Of the 995 women polled last month, one-third said they were not well informed about risks and symptoms. Nearly nine in 10 also said they had not discussed it with their doctors in the past year.

While most were able to identify common warning signs of a heart attack such as chest pain and breathlessness, not many knew that fatigue, sweating profusely and increased heartbeat are also telltale signs specific to women suffering a heart attack.

The lack of knowledge is worrying, said cardiologist and medical director of the Singapore Heart Foundation Goh Ping Ping on Saturday. He conducted the survey among women aged 21 to 64 to determine their levels of perception and awareness of heart disease.

Dr Goh also found that older women knew more about the disease than their younger counterparts. The latest results mirrored findings in similar surveys conducted in 2006 and 2009.

In contrast, nearly 30 per cent of American women are aware of heart disease and stroke being the toughest and most debilitating ailments.

In 2011, 29.6 per cent of deaths among women in Singapore were caused by heart disease or stroke. This is comparable to the 31.7 per cent of deaths among men.

Cancer and pneumonia are the next top killers.

But there are bright spots in the survey findings.

More than 60 per cent of respondents knew their good and bad cholesterol levels. More than 65 per cent also exercised at least once a week.

Dr Goh was speaking to reporters after announcing some of the survey findings at the Go Red for Women Symposium to raise awareness of heart disease and stroke among women and ways to prevent it.

He said the heart foundation planned to use social media tools like Facebook more effectively to reach out to women about events and heart health facts in its Go Red for Women campaign.

The organisation's chief executive, Mr Vernon Kang, said it also intends to make the information more readily available in languages such as Malay and Tamil.

Mr Kang said the key message is that "heart disease is not just a man's disease".

Speaking to some 200 people at the symposium on Saturday, Minister of State for Health Amy Khor said even as women oversee the health of their family, they also need to take care of their own.

Teacher Lim Shu Li, who was at the event, said she wanted to pick up more tips beyond "just exercising more and eating well" to prevent heart disease.

The 28-year-old said she also wanted to learn how to prepare fuss-free healthy meals after her 70-year-old father was diagnosed with diabetes last year.

The family of five gave up sugary drinks and eat only low glycemic index bread. "In the past, we would sit in front of the TV and finish up a big packet of chips or family-sized chocolate, but now it's just nuts and fruit."

jermync@sph.com.sg


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