Raising awareness for women’s heart health one presentation at a time

Cardiovascular technology students were given a presentation on the most prevalent cause of death for women worldwide: heart disease
Photo: Stephanie Taylor
Nazil Parast discusses with Level 2 cardiovascular technology students how heart disease presents differently in women.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women worldwide, according to the Canadian Women’s Heart Health Alliance. Despite this, women’s heart health is understudied and underdiagnosed.

“[The] majority of the research that has been done [on heart disease] in the past has been done on caucasian men,” said Lisa Comber, the knowledge translation lead at the CWHHA.

Comber and her colleague Nazil Parast, an advanced practice nurse, came to Algonquin College’s Woodroffe campus on Feb. 14 to deliver a presentation on women’s heart health.

Level 2 cardiovascular technology students attended the presentation in room 102ab in T-building. Every student wore red in honour of February being heart health month.

This was the first time Parast and Comber presented to the cardiovascular technology students at Algonquin College.

Parast and Comber work with the CWHHA to bring awareness to women’s heart health.

Part of how the CWHHA plans on raising awareness is by sending experts, such as Parast and Comber, to post-secondary schools to speak with students on topics that may not be covered in their curriculum.

The lack of heart disease research conducted on women leads to a hole in education curriculums as these curriculums are based on research that has been done previously.

During Parast’s segment of the presentation, she talked about how over 50 per cent of women have heart attack symptoms that aren’t recognized by most health-care providers.

Health-care providers only have a limited amount of time with their patients – the students all said they have around five minutes to talk with a patient.

Parast showed the students the outline she follows when talking with her patients. Parast believes the best method is to just let patients talk without interruption.

“I don’t know what I’m missing when they reroute,” said Parast.

The Level 2 cardiovascular technology students aren’t quite ready to make their own plans on how to talk with patients.

“Right now the importance for them is to get that knowledge,” said Karen Tran, the cardiovascular technology program coordinator. “Once they have that knowledge then they can decide ‘okay, what can I do with this knowledge?’”

Another part of how the CWHHA plans on raising awareness is by educating women on how heart disease can present differently in men than women. The CWHHA also hopes to encourage women to participate in studies on heart health and to go out and get their annual blood work.

According to Parast, since women have historically been the primary caregivers, they often aren’t able to focus on their own health.

“It’s time to put ourselves first,” said Parast. “If you go on an airplane, they always say to put your mask on first before you help someone else.”

Comber agreed with Parast’s analogy.

“If you are not putting yourself at least first, second, third, then it’s going to impact the family in a negative way,” said Comber. “You have to be able to look after yourself to be able to look after your family.”

Parast and Comber hope to continue going to post-secondary schools to give presentations.

“The last two Novembers we’ve done awareness events [with the nursing students at Algonquin], which has been phenomenal,” said Comber. “But, we need to do more.”

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