Women can get heart attacks too as a Chorley woman reveals her health scare as part of British Heart Foundation's gender inequality campaign

Alison Booth
Alison Booth

A Chorley woman who suffered a sudden heart attack aged just 48 is urging other women to know the symptoms of a heart attack.

Alison Booth has spoken as the British Heart Foundation (BHF) has launched a report aimed at quashing any perception that heart attack is a male disease and hopes it will encourage women to better understand their risk of a heart attack and its symptoms.

Alison, now 53, had a heart attack in June 2016 while at work as a nurse. Her symptoms built up gradually over several days.

She said: “The pain started in my collarbone and neck, then a couple of days later it spread to my jaw and chest,” said Alison. “I didn’t think it could be a heart attack because I was a fit, healthy woman in my 40s, so I just put it down to having a hectic few days.”

Paramedics initially thought Alison was having a panic attack, until a blood test revealed a chemical called troponin in the blood, which is released during a heart attack.

Alison was transferred to Wythenshawe Hospital where she underwent emergency bypass surgery.

She said: “I’m in good health now, and have had great support. But the fact that I am a trained nurse and I didn’t recognise that I was having a heart attack shows that there needs to be more awareness of the symptoms.

“My advice to other women would be not to ignore pain they’ve never had before. Be aware that women do have heart attacks, and the symptoms are not necessarily always central chest pain or left arm pain. I was 48 when I had a heart attack, which I felt was quite young, but it can happen to anyone.”

In the North West, around 4,100 women are admitted to hospital following a heart attack each year.

The BHF’s new report shows that women often delay seeking medical help by over two hours, reducing their chance of survival.

The briefing also highlights BHF-funded research, which estimates that more than 8,200 women in England and Wales alone died over a ten-year period because they did not receive equal treatment to men.

Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, Consultant Cardiologist and Associate Medical Director of the British Heart Foundation, said: “Women are dying needlessly because heart attacks are often seen as a man’s disease, and women simply don’t receive the same standard of treatment as men. The studies detailed in this briefing have revealed inequalities at every stage of a woman’s medical journey.

“The first steps to closing this gender gap include tackling the public perception of women and heart attacks. The assumption that women are not at risk of heart attack is false, and has proven to be deadly.

“The BHF wants to empower women to better understand their risk and to know the many symptoms of a heart attack. When someone has a heart attack – every second counts. The sooner people recognise their symptoms and call 999, the better their chance of recovery.

“In addition, we need to continue to fund research to better prevent, diagnose and treat heart attacks. We also need to raise national awareness of gender based inequalities in heart attack care and identify and guard against unconscious biases that could contribute to them.”

To find out more about the BHF’s campaign visit www.bhf.org.uk/women