Calgary

Heart disease remains leading cause of death in Canada, says Heart Fit director

The director of Calgary's Heart Fit Clinic is hoping some good will come from the recent deaths of celebrities Carrie Fisher, George Michael and Alan Thicke — awareness of the prevalence of heart disease.

Diamond Fernandes says signs of heart attack different for men and women

Diamond Fernandes, director of Heart Fit Clinic in Calgary, says getting to the hospital quickly can be the difference between life and death when suffering a cardiac episode. (Natasha Frakes/CBC)

The director of Calgary's Heart Fit Clinic is hoping some good will come from the recent deaths of celebrities Carrie Fisher, George Michael and Alan Thicke — awareness of the prevalence of heart disease.

It remains one of the leading causes of death in Canada, says Diamond Fernandes.

Fisher died Dec. 27 in a Los Angeles hospital, days after suffering a reported cardiac episode during a flight from London to L.A.

Michael was found dead in his home in England on Dec. 25, reportedly from heart failure and Thicke died Dec. 13 after reportedly suffering a heart attack while playing hockey with his son.

Different symptoms

The signs of a heart attack can be different for men and women, says Fernandes.

"Sometimes [in women] it's extensive jaw pain or neck pain or indigestion or a fatigue feeling," he said. "It's very different but it's an intense feeling."

And too often, both men and women ignore symptoms until it's too late.

"I think the number one symptom, really, is denial," he said. "It's like, 'ah, it's nothing, it's something I ate.'"

Understand your risk

And that remains a problem, he said, as the faster someone gets to the hospital, the more likely they are to survive a heart attack.

"The idea is you want to get to a hospital as quick as possible, calling 911 and getting the ambulance there," he said.

"We have a very good system here in Calgary and in all of Canada to help people in major centres get to the hospital very quickly so we can open up that artery as quick as possible."

It's also important to see your doctor regularly and understand your risk of heart disease.

With files from Natasha Frakes

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