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Algonquin College News

The heart of the matter

February 14, 2024

On Wednesday, students at Algonquin College continued to recognize Heart Month on-campus and raise awareness surrounding heart health. 

Two representatives from the University of Ottawa Heart Institute spoke to approximately 30 Cardiovascular Technology and Diagnostic Cardiac Sonography learners about women’s heart health as the audience attending was decked out in red in support of women’s heart health. 

“Heart disease is the number one killer of women worldwide,” said Dr. Nazli Parast, an advanced practice nurse at the Women’s Heart Health and Hypertension clinics at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. “The good news is 80 per cent of cardiovascular disease can be prevented.” 

Parast explained that heart disease in women is under treated, under studied and under diagnosed.  

“Women have a unique series of risk factors and often symptoms of heart attack are different in women.” She explained that signs that a woman may be experiences a heart attack may include jaw pain, back pain, chest tightening, upper abdominal pain, nausea and excessive sweating. “These are not typically associated with heart attack factors in men.” 

Often, heart attack symptoms are not recognized in over 50 per cent of women, said Parast. “It’s so important for you to know the symptoms, how they can be connected and explain them to your doctor.”  

Tips to prevent heart disease include being active, eating healthy foods, managing stress, refraining from tobacco and vaping, limiting alcohol and getting regular checkups. 

Even though women represent a 52 per cent of the population, they are not properly represented in research or testing, according to Lisa Comber, Manager, Canadian Womenʼs Heart Health Alliance Knowledge; Translation Manager, Canadian Womenʼs Heart Health Centre Division of Cardiac Prevention; a Manager at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. 

“Most tests and guidelines were made using Caucasian men in study groups. As 52 per cent of the population we are raising the alarm and trying to change things,” said Comber. 

“We are doing work around advocacy, training and education to improve cardiovascular health testing. Speaking to students today is a way for those in the healthcare field to learn more.”  

She explained the Canadian Women’s Heart Health Alliance is trying to find the gaps in education, incorporating changes into curriculum and change standard chest pain protocol. 

To learn more visit University of Ottawa Heart Institute or the Canadian Women’s Heart Health Alliance.