Last updated May 29, 2018 at 12:13 pm
Alarmingly, in Australia, women are three times more likely to die from heart disease than breast cancer.
For post-menopausal women, the risk of developing cardiovascular disease increases as protective oestrogen levels decrease. Despite this, for an array of reasons, women continue to present to hospital much later than men when experiencing a heart attack or stroke.
Former frontline cardiac nurse and PhD candidate Peta King has a multidisciplinary approach to her research on breast arterial calcification, with the idea to combine screening for early risk factors of heart disease with a routine breast cancer screening.
“We will be collaborating with Breast Screen South Australia with the aim to use mammographic technology to look at breast arterial calcification, correlate its association with cardiovascular disease and track its progression and impact over time,” says Ms King. “So, women could potentially be screened for both breast cancer and cardiovascular disease at the same time – two birds, one stone. Hopefully this means there is an opportunity for earlier identification of risk factors, which may lead to prevention of future cardiovascular disease.”
While the risks of cardiovascular disease in women have received more media attention in the last few year, many still don’t know the signs.
“If you actually google what a heart attack looks like, most of the stock photos are of a man in his 50s, who is somewhat overweight and clutching at his chest,” says Ms King. “Heart disease might not be obvious in women and we often aren’t reminded of the symptoms other than typical chest pain while having a heart attack like nausea, dizziness or back and jaw pain, shortness of breath that females can experience.”
Awareness of heart disease risk among women is low, with less than 40 per cent being aware that heart disease is the leading cause of death in Australian women.