Heart Attack Facts

If you think you are having a heart attack, call ‘000’ now

Getting the facts on women and heart attack

Heart disease and heart attacks are often perceived as being an older man’s disease, however heart disease is the single biggest killer of Australian women. Over 4,800 women died of a heart attack in Australia in 2010 – women comprise 49% of all heart attack deaths in Australia1.

Learn the facts about women and heart attack

Did you know that heart disease is the single biggest killer of Australian women? And that four times as many women die of heart disease than breast cancer?

If you are a woman over 40 and living in Australia, your chance of having a heart attack before the age of 70 is one in three; if you are a woman who smokes, your chance increases to one in two – which is the same chance as for men.

The risk of heart disease increases once women reach menopause and it kills more women than lung cancer, breast cancer and colorectal cancer combined. Despite this, only 36% of Australian women 2 are aware that heart disease is their number one killer. If awareness is low, then women are less likely to see the relevance of taking action to improve their heart health.

Heart attack warning signs

It is important to understand that warning signs can vary from person to person and they may not always be sudden or severe. Most people recognise chest pain as a warning sign of heart attack – which is important because chest pain is one of the most common symptoms. However, a recent study has shown that 40% of women can experience a heart attack without chest pain. Instead women may experience other warning signs such as shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, back pain or just unexplained tiredness and fatigue. Women often think that these warning signs are less life threatening conditions such as indigestion and don’t take prompt action to call Triple Zero (000).

A heart attack may not be what you think, it is important to learn and understand the warning signs and to be prepared. Following an action plan gives you the best chance of survival. Don’t delay, if you think you are having a heart attack call Triple Zero (000), as treatment starts from the time you call.

We know that women are more likely to call an ambulance for their husbands than themselves. This inaction and delay may be one of reasons why women are more likely than men to die from a heart attack or have long term related health problems.

With a heart attack, every minute counts. Don’t delay calling Triple Zero (000).

Don’t become a statistic

The good news is that you can do something to reduce your risk of having a heart attack.

Risk factors you can change:

Don’t let a heart attack be the first symptom of heart disease.
Learn the risk factors and act on the information now to save your own life.

Katie’s Story

Listen to Katie’s story and arm yourself with the knowledge that she wishes she had when she suffered her heart attack.

Dr Michelle Ammerer

“Almost every day I see women who stay at home for hours with heart
attack symptoms. By the time they get to hospital it may be too late for
treatments to stop their heart attack from happening. My message to
all women is; don’t ignore heart attack symptoms or sit at home
wondering if you are having a heart attack. Call Triple Zero for an
ambulance to take you to hospital. Don’t drive yourself or get a
family member to drive you in. If you do, you put everyone in danger.”


Dr Michelle Ammerer, MBBS, FRACP

Director of the Coronary Care Unit at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital (WA)
and General and Interventional Cardiologist with Western Cardiology.

Appointed to the Heart Foundation Board (WA) in June 2005.


1 Australian Bureau of Statistics. Causes of Death data. Canberra 2012.
2 National Heart Foundation of Australia. Heart Watch 2011 (unpublished)