Antrim woman who thought heart attack was indigestion warns others
A Co Antrim woman who mistook a heart attack for indigestion has urged women to be more aware of the symptoms of heart disease.
Around four women are admitted to hospital every day in Northern Ireland due to a heart attack.
A charity has warned there is still a worrying lack of awareness of the issue.
British Heart Foundation Northern Ireland (BHF NI) said a heart attack is not a male disease, and women need to have more understanding of the risks and symptoms.
Among those who have been affected is Lisa Collins.
The 48-year-old from Carrickfergus was shopping in Londonderry with a friend in August 2014 when she began to feel chest pain that she put down to indigestion.
The pain began to worsen but Lisa still didn't believe she was suffering from a heart problem - until her worried friend phoned for an ambulance.
The mum-of-three was rushed to Altnagelvin Hospital where she suffered a cardiac arrest.
Lisa said: "The ambulance took me to hospital and they sent me for a chest X-ray then wheeled me back to the ward.
"The next thing I can remember is I woke up hearing someone screaming.
"I didn't realise at the time that person was me. I'd had a heart attack that then led to a cardiac arrest and my heart had stopped beating.
"I didn't realise what had just happened to me.
"Shortly after I heard a doctor close by on the phone talking about a female patient who had had a cardiac arrest and it could happen again at any time, and I can remember thinking to myself 'that poor woman', having no idea that he actually meant me."
A few days later Lisa was fitted with two stents in one of her coronary arteries before being released from hospital.
She is now supporting BHF NI to raise awareness of heart attacks in women.
"Before this all happened I had never been sick and had always considered myself in good health, though I did smoke," she added.
"Now I do my best to stay as healthy as I can and am out quite a bit walking the dog. I haven't smoked since the day it happened.
"That day I never in a million years thought I was having a heart attack. I thought it was trapped wind or indigestion.
"It was only because my friend was so concerned that she phoned an ambulance so who knows what might have happened."
Lisa said women need to be more aware of the risks.
She added: "Heart disease is just not something I was worried about.
"You are very aware of the symptoms of other diseases and would push so hard to get help but you don't think a heart attack would happen to you.
"I know I am very lucky and that it could have been a completely different experience if I had delayed treatment any longer."
Fearghal McKinney, head of BHF NI, said women are dying needlessly because heart attacks are seen as a man's disease, and women do not realise they are at risk too. He said the first step to closing this gender gap was tackling the public perception around women and heart attacks.
"The assumption that women are not at risk of heart attack is false, and has proven to be deadly," he said.
"We need to continue to fund research to help better prevent, diagnose and treat heart attacks."
He added: "We also have got to raise national awareness of gender-based inequalities in heart attack care and identify and guard against unconscious biases that could contribute to them."