Heart disease kills more Australian women than any other cause, including breast cancer.
Moreover, about 40% of heart attacks in women are fatal, and many occur without prior warning. Sadly, the majority of women don't realise it's their number one killer.
Why is heart disease less recognised in women?
- Women tend to develop symptoms of heart disease at a much later stage of the illness than men.
- Their symptoms are often more vague or ‘non-specific‘.
- Some diagnostic tests for heart disease are less accurate in women than in men.
- Women are less likely to seek help quickly.
- Some health professionals are less likely to check.
Hormone replacement therapy
Researchers report that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) does not prevent heart disease or limit it if you have heart disease already, and may increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes and blood clots.
– Women's Health Initiative 2005, WISE 2004
How can women reduce their risk?
Women need to understand that they are at risk from hypertension and diabetes, and that these disorders are largely preventable.
- Stick to an active lifestyle throughout life – preferably beginning in the pre-menopausal years with regular exercise (at least 30 minutes, 3–5 times a week).
- Follow a low-fat diet.
- Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
- Maintain a healthy body weight.
Prevention involves early recognition of particular cardiovascular risk factors as they occur in each – with medication where these factors can't be controlled by lifestyle changes.
Information in this section provided by Dr Melissa Doohan, cardiologist, Royal North Shore Hospital, and Robyn Gallagher, Associate Professor, Chronic and Complex Care, University of Technology, Sydney