Red alert: women's heart disease presents differently

Red Alert Dr. Sedlak

Did you know that heart disease presents differently for women than men? Although heart disease is the leading cause of premature death for Canadian women, there are inequities in how it is recognized, understood and treated in women.

“Half of women who experience heart attacks have their symptoms go unrecognized, and they are less likely than men to receive the treatments and medications they need or get them in a timely way.”

Dr. Tara Sedlak, Director of the Leslie Diamond Women's Heart Health Clinic at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) and researcher with the Centre for Cardiovascular Innovation. 

Know the symptoms

It’s important for women to know the symptoms. Women having a heart attack may have:

  • Chest pain
  • Jaw pain – can be a sign of Angina
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tightness in chest
  • Nausea
  • Sweating

If symptoms are persistent, severe or worrisome, call 9-1-1.

Dr. Sedlak says to pay attention to your body and speak to your doctor if you suspect something is wrong.

“Listen to that voice in your head telling you something isn't right and advocate for yourself," she says.

How to prevent women’s heart disease

In addition to learning more about heart disease, Dr. Sedlak says there are preventative steps women can take:

  • Exercise three to five times a week for 20 to 30 minutes
  • Eat a well-balanced diet
  • Get a good night’s sleep
  • Try to reduce stress
  • Include heart health in your overall medical check-ups after age 40, including having your cholesterol monitored and your heart checked.

Get involved

Dr. Sedlak is dedicated to raising awareness of these gaps to support prevention among women. This is why she founded Wear Red Day Canada in 2019, an initiative that invites Canadians to wear red on February 13 and learn more about women’s heart health.

Wear red on Wear Red Canada Day – February 13:

  1. Wear red on Tuesday, February 13.
  2. Join the conversation in person and on social media using #HerHeartMatters and #WearRedCanada
  3. Visit for more information, including how to join the Wear Red Canada Movement Challenge.