Women are less likely to survive a heart attack than men with new research revealing men suffer twice as many heart attacks even though death rates for both genders are nearly the same.
Data from the National Heart Foundation of Australia shows 36,000 men and 19,000 women are hospitalised for heart attacks annually. About 4700 men die compared with 4500 women.
A survey by the foundation found delays in treatment and lack of awareness could be partly to blame for the low survival rate in women who suffer heart attacks, according to the research released on Friday.
Heart Foundation ACT chief executive Tony Stubbs said heart disease was the biggest killer of women, including in the ACT.
"There's a perception that it's a man's disease," he said. "We're trying to promote the message that normal symptoms around chest pain, even jaw pain or other pain could be heart disease and if those things are happening, you need to act quickly."
The survey of 504 heart attack survivors revealed women were far less likely to seek medical help but more likely than men to tell friends or family.
The survey, which is being used as part of the Heart Foundation's Go Red for Women campaign, indicates women are slower to recognise the warning signs of a heart attack.
ABC field and online reporter Louise Maher shared her personal story of heart disease, revealing how she suffered for nearly 12 months with symptoms such as indigestion and heartburn before an exploratory angiogram in March confirmed the news the 52-year-old was not expecting.
"The symptoms weren't happening all the time, it was intermittent. I really thought it was going to be something to do with indigestion," she said.
"I went back to the cardiologist and he said because of my family history of heart disease, really we should try to rule out any heart problems."
The angiogram discovered Ms Maher had two severe blockages and during a procedure to have three stents inserted, she had a mini heart attack. Her specialist later told her she had been only days or weeks away from a major heart attack.
Ms Maher said she now exercised regularly and was "feeling great" after her health scare. She encouraged other women to take care of their health and listen to their bodies.
"Women get so busy with work, looking after kids, looking after relatives, that it can be really easy to put your health at the bottom of the list and if you don't look after yourself, you won't be able to look after anyone else," she said.
Warning signs of a heart attack include pain, pressure, heaviness or tightness in one or more parts of the upper body such as the chest, neck, jaw, arm, shoulder or back in combination with symptoms of nausea, shortness of breath, dizziness or a cold sweat.
"People should err on the side of caution – if they're having some of the symptoms, particularly chest, arm or jaw pain, they really should be calling 000," Mr Stubbs said.
Mr Stubbs advised people to see their GP for a heart health check-up. He said it was also important for women to know what their blood pressure and cholesterol was.
"Prevention is better than cure. Heart disease is an issue women need to take seriously," he said.
For more information, visit heartattackfacts.org.au or call 1300 36 27 87.