Low awareness of CVD among women

Women are six times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease (CVD) than breast cancer, yet awareness of the signs and symptoms of this condition remains low, healthcare professionals have warned.

CVD includes all diseases of the heart and circulatory system, such as stroke, heart attack and angina. It is the most common cause of death in Ireland, accounting for one in three deaths here, and one in five premature deaths.

However, according to the urgent cardiac care nursing team at the Mater Private Hospital in Dublin, awareness of CVD is low among women, with many unaware that the symptoms and risk factors associated with the disease can differ between men and women.

Urgent cardiac care nurse at the Mater Private Hospital, Sue Dardis, explained that despite the fact that about one-third of all Irish women die as a result of CVD, many still view it as something that ‘strikes men'.

"Women often experience different symptoms of cardiovascular diseases than men and are more likely to have heart attack symptoms unrelated to chest pain, so it is really important that they know and understand the other symptoms that can indicate something is wrong," she noted.

She advised that the following symptoms should be investigated as they can signal CVD:

-Neck, jaw, shoulder and upper back or abdominal discomfort
-Shortness of breath
-Pain in one or both arms
-Nausea or vomiting
-Unexplained perspiration
-Light-headedness or dizziness
-Unusual fatigue

She also pointed out that CVD risk factors for women can be different from men, including:

-Diabetes - women with diabetes have a bigger risk of developing heart disease than men with diabetes
-Stress and depression - women's hearts are affected by these more than men's, and depression can make it difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle and follow treatment
-Smoking - this is a bigger risk factor in women compared to men
-Menopause - Low levels of oestrogen after menopause pose a major risk for women as they have an impact on smaller blood vessels
-Pregnancy complications - High blood pressure or gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) can increase a woman's long-term risk of high blood pressure and diabetes.

The urgent cardiac care nursing team emphasised that there are a number of steps women can take to reduce their risk of CVD. They urge women to:

-Quit smoking
-Exercise regularly
-Maintain a healthy weight
-Eat a balanced diet including fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, lean meats and healthy fats. Try to reduce or avoid consumption of saturated or trans fats, added sugars, and high amounts of salt
-Reduce stress
-Have regular health screenings in order to identify potential risk factors, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure.


[Posted: Thu 26/07/2018]

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