Heart disease is not just a man's problem

Heart disease and stroke are the biggest killers of women in Ireland, yet almost 90% of women are unaware of this, the Irish Heart Foundation (IHF) has warned.

It has just launched the results of a new survey as part of a national ‘RED ALERT' this September. The aim of the alert is to raise awareness of the dangers of heart disease among women throughout the country.

According to the survey findings, just over one in 10 women believes that heart disease is the number one killer of women here. Most women think that cancer is the biggest killer of women, with one in five specifically assuming breast cancer kills more women than anything else.

However, figures from the Central Statistics Office suggest that women are actually six times more likely to die from heart disease and stroke than from breast cancer.

Most women also incorrectly assume that more men die from heart disease than women, yet figures show that just as many women die from it.

Commenting on the findings, IHF medical director and consultant cardiologist, Dr Angie Brown, pointed out that many women still view heart disease as ‘mainly a man's problem', even though around one-third of all women will die from it.

"Most women are more concerned about breast cancer even though six times as many women die from heart disease and stroke in Ireland each year. Our goal is to alert women that especially after the menopause, they are at risk of heart attack and stroke, as much as any man.

"One reason for this is women are protected by their hormones and present with heart problems a few years later than men, but after the menopause, a woman's risk of heart disease and stroke catches up with that of a man's," she explained.

Dr Brown also emphasised that the signs and symptoms of a heart attack can be different in women compared to men.

"A woman may experience more vague symptoms such as nausea, tiredness, shortness of breath, rather than the more usual crushing pain in the chest. Unfortunately this can mean that women delay in getting to the hospital and therefore lose valuable time for the necessary treatment," she noted.

However, she pointed out that 80% of heart disease is preventable, and a healthy lifestyle can reduce the risks.

"This September's RED ALERT is a wake-up call to every woman in Ireland to take care of her heart health. Remember, it's usually not the fancy stuff that makes you live longer, it's about the basics - weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, being active, quitting smoking and knowing your family history," she said.

Dr Brown highlighted the particular dangers that smoking can have on the heart health of women, because women metabolise nicotine faster than men, increasing their risk more. Some 80% of women under the age of 40 who have suffered heart attacks are smokers.

Diabetes also increases a woman's risk of heart disease more than a man's. And having a family history of heart disease and stroke can be a bigger predictor of the disease in women than in men.

Throughout September, the IHF, with the support of the HSE, will be promoting heart-healthy behaviours. Its main tips for women include:

-Do at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity five times a week
-East a healthy diet containing more fruit and vegetables and less fatty, processed foods.
-Quit smoking
-Have regular blood pressure checks
-Know your family history and the signs and symptoms of heart disease.

For more information click here

See also our Heart Disease Clinic here


[Posted: Tue 25/08/2015]

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