Heart of the matter

Heart attack is the No. 1 killer among women, yet many are still in the dark about it. SUZANNA PILLAY discovers that its symptoms for women are different from men.

HEALTHY heart, happy woman. That’s the motto that Women’s Heart Health Organisation (WH2O) hopes all Malaysian women will embrace, by taking proper care of their cardiovascular health.

Cardiovascular disease is the main cause of death among women worldwide, including Malaysia. It accounts for about 25 per cent of all female deaths in our government hospitals.

“Sometimes, under the triage system practised at hospital emergency rooms, women experiencing a heart attack are not appropriately triaged as they project different symptoms from men,” says Tan Sri Dr Robaayah Zambahari, senior consultant cardiologist at National Heart Institute.

“Rather than the typical chest pain, women show up at hospitals with breathlessness and fatigue. This results in delayed diagnosis and treatment.” WH20, under the National Heart Association of Malaysia, has been raising awareness of this silent killer among women through a series of programmes in conjunction with International Women’s Day in the Klang Valley and Kuching. Its final awareness and screening programme is today at Gleneagles Medical Centre in Penang, from 10am-4pm.

Those who attend the screening can get their blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and body mass index (BMI) measured. They will also be given a screening booklet that contains their data and risk, a brochure on heart disease in women, and an information booklet on how women can reduce their risk of heart disease and maintain a heart-healthy lifestyle. Besides that, clinicians, dieticians, physiotherapists and diabetes counsellors will be around to provide counselling.

“Most think that the No. 1 killer among women is breast cancer, but that’s not true. Deaths due to heart attack or stroke are almost 2½ times more common than deaths due to all cancers combined,” says Dr Robaayah, who is also a member of the WH20 protem committee.

She points out risk factors that women should heed are hypertension, obesity, high cholesterol and diabetes.

In particular, diabetic women have to be extra careful, says Dr Robaayah, as their risk of heart disease or stroke is four times higher than non-diabetics.

She encourages women to get at least 30-40 minutes of exercise four or five times a week.

“Even light to moderate activity such as walking for an hour, is associated with lower risk of heart disease in women.” She also suggests that women quit smoking and maintain a BMI of 18.5-23kg/m² and waist circumference under 82cm.


  1. I think heart disease affects just about everyone right? :D So we outta lead a healthy lifestyle.

  2. thanks for possibly saving my life :)

    Aloha from Honolulu

    Comfort Spiral



  3. To me, the number one contributor to woman's HA is stress, you see women tend to worry more about house,work, children, husband and many many more and most of the times, they do not have many avenues to vend out their stress like men do.

    Men can go and jolly and drink with friends and leave the family in the care of women but women just can't really do that..........so let us be nice to women ya


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