Cardiovascular disease kills as many women in the UK as it does men, accounting for a combined total of 155,000 deaths each year or one death every three minutes.
More than 30,000 women die from coronary heart disease in the UK every year with over 700,000 women living with the consequences of heart disease and stroke, according to research published by The British Heart Foundation ahead of World Heart Day on 29th September.
World Heart Day is organised by the World Heart Federation and aims to raise awareness of heart disease through education, advocacy and research. The aim of World Heart Day is to create healthy heart environments and encourage individuals to make healthy heart choices wherever they live, work and play.
This year, World Heart Day will be focusing on women’s heart health, as despite the shocking statistics above, The British Heart Foundation claim that women often wait longer then men before calling 999 after experiencing symptoms of a heart attack. Often, this is due to women being less likely to recognise the symptoms of a heart attack or being reluctant to cause a fuss. As Dr Cliff Bucknall, Consultant Cardiologist at London Bridge Hospital, notes:
Many women believe that heart disease is a condition that only affects men. This is simply not true and as a result, women are less likely to be aware of the associated risks, particularly, around heart disease and contraception.
Dr Bucknall states that for most women taking oral contraception, there is a very low risk of experiencing a heart attack. However, this does rise with age as the risk of having a heart attack rises significantly following the menopause. Dr Bucknall comments:
There are different types of hormonal contraception which can have different effects on the formation of blood clots and potential heart attacks. Consequently, it is extremely important to discuss with your healthcare provider the birth control options that carry the least risk for you.
Also, Dr Bucknall dispels the myth that Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) medication protects women against heart disease. He states:
HRT will help to relieve menopausal hot flushes and night sweats but don’t expect it to help your heart. Recent research now suggests that HRT isn’t heart protective and, as with all drug treatments there are potential side effects.
For women who are worried about their heart health, Dr Bucknall shares the following advice:
There are a number of simple self-help actions that women can take to reduce their risk of heart disease. These include, giving up smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and undertaking more physical activity.