Go Red for Women: Paying attention to heart health amidst stressors of the pandemic

Connecticut Families

(WTNH) — Health care professionals are underscoring the importance of knowing the signs of cardiovascular disease and heart attacks, especially for women during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I had a pain in the right side by my rib cage so who would think it had anything to do with your heart?” remembered Sandra Rose of Lebanon, a 79-year-old mother and grandmother, who was having a heart attack.

She had a history of diabetes and high blood pressure. Still, her life changed in an instant during a complicated time.

“It was the beginning of COVID, the pandemic, so my kids couldn’t come in to see me which was difficult, that was the hard part.”

“Everyone in this pandemic is so scared to go to the hospital and their provider that they’re ignoring their symptoms,” explained Dr. Jeffrey Kegel, a cardiologist at Windham Hospital who worked with Rose.

He wanted to remind people that cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of females.

“Women’s heart disease often presents itself differently from men. For men, it’s like the elephant on the chest but with women, they’re vague symptoms they can relate to other problems.”

RELATED: Women should be aware of these top risk factors of heart disease

Women’s symptoms can present as nausea, a feeling of indigestion, fatigue or shortness of breath.

“With the pandemic, they’re downplaying even more of their symptoms because they don’t want to go to the hospital and, if they’re sick to their stomachs, it could be their heart but they’re thinking it could be COVID,” said Kegel.

Women, as caregivers, often put others first. Add in the pressures of their kids’ virtual learning and caring for elderly parents, there could be a perfect storm for problems.

“There have been an increased number of patients coming in with heart attacks they would not have otherwise had,” said Kegel.

Rose has a message for other women: “Listen to your body. If you have something different happening, maybe you should have it checked out.”

Learn more about women’s heart health during a virtual presentation on Saturday morning presented by Hartford Healthcare. More information about the event can be found online.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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