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Women in politics listen up: pay special attention to your heart health

By Liza Frulla      

It's time that women, especially those in high-stress careers such as Parliamentarians, realize the heart truth, pay attention to their risk factors, and learn about lifestyle changes that protect their health, says Liza Frulla.

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Think heart disease is “a man’s disease?” Think again. It’s vital that women in politics pay special attention to their own heart health while spreading the word about The Heart Truth in communities across Canada.

The face of heart disease is changing.

Many women think of cardiovascular disease as a “man’s disease.” But that’s simply not true. In fact, women are more likely than men to die of a heart attack or stroke.

Canadian women are facing a life and death health issue. Heart disease and stroke is the leading cause of death for Canadian women. In Canada, strokes kill 45 per cent more women than men. And women are 16 per cent more likely than men to die after a heart attack.

The real tragedy is that most don’t know it. While heart disease and stroke kill one in three Canadian women, only one in eight know it’s their most serious health concern. Women who are community and government leaders are in a unique position to help spread this lifesaving message to women in communities across Canada. It can make a real difference and save lives.

It’s time that women—especially those in high-stress careers such as Parliamentarians—realize the heart truth, pay attention to their risk factors, and learn about lifestyle changes that protect their health.

Why the increase in women’s risks of heart attack and stroke? Women are less likely to recognize the symptoms of these diseases and seek treatment quickly; men and women are often treated differently by the health system, with men receiving more prompt and proactive treatment; and women have a number of unique risks, such as pregnancy and menopause.

New studies indicate that women are referred to a cardiologist following a heart attack less often than men, and women have higher in-hospital mortality rates after a heart attack. They are less likely to be transferred to another facility for treatment and less likely to receive life-saving cardiac procedures compared to men.

Women can reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke by as much as 80 per cent by making lifestyle changes, such as being smoke free, lowering cholesterol levels, managing body weight, keeping physically active, monitoring blood pressure, reducing stress, managing diabetes, and limiting alcohol consumption.

The bottom line is that awareness of your risks, of the warning signs, and of prevention and treatment options is your best defence against heart disease and stroke. Take charge of your health by finding out what your personal risk is at www.thehearttruth.ca/heart_truth_quiz.

To empower women to become aware of the facts and take charge of their heart health, the Heart and Stroke Foundation recently launched “The Heart Truth” campaign to educate women about identifying their risks and warning signs of heart disease and stroke. It is especially relevant for women 40 to 60 years old, whose risk increases as they age.

The Canadian government is also funding the development of the Canadian Heart Health Strategy and Action Plan, which will address key disparities in cardiovascular disease between women and men.

Late last month, 18 of Canada’s most powerful women joined forces with the Heart and Stroke Foundation to form The Heart Truth Leadership Council. Leaders in their respective fields of health care, business, finance, academia, politics, sports, media, research, and philanthropy, as well as council members will bring their formidable talents and resources to The Heart Truth campaign in a bid to save Canadian women’s lives from heart disease and stroke.

To celebrate the launch, eight of Ottawa’s most well-known women modeled red outfits custom-designed by renowned Canadian designer Paddy Mann at a special reception. Women MPs and Senators from all political stripes attended.

The Red Dress represents women’s courage, passion, and their power for change as they share the truth with others and raise awareness about the importance of heart health. A recent fashion show during Fashion Week in Toronto brought the Red Dress to life on the runway.

Join us and become a Heart Truth Champion by sharing The Heart Truth with other women. It will help save lives in your community. Together, we can share the truth all across Canada and give women the knowledge they need to survive and thrive.

Liza Frulla is a former Liberal MP and Cabinet minister. She is a member of the Heart Truth Leadership Council. She currently is a political analyst for the CBC-Radio Canada corporation, associate professor of public governance at Sherbrooke University, and sits on the boards of several public and charitable organizations.


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