Concern for cardiovascular disease in women

by Rachel Cunningham
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A consultant cardiologist has criticised how cardiovascular disease in women is approached in Ireland, claiming that it remains understudied, under-recognised, under-diagnosed and under-treated. 

Commenting on findings from 2021 CSO data, which revealed that one in four women in Ireland die from heart disease and stroke, Dr Angie Brown, medical director of the Irish Heart Foundation, added: “Early, detection and management of cardiovascular risk factors are essential if we are to improve women’s heart health and reduce early deaths in women.” 

Last year, a total of 4,145 women died from cardiovascular disease, accounting for 26 per cent of all female deaths. In a poll conducted by Ipsos on behalf of the Irish Heart Foundation, more than half of women (58 per cent) said this was higher than they thought. 

By comparison, 686 women died from breast cancer in the same year, meaning that cardiovascular disease is six times more prevalent among women than breast cancer. 

A woman’s risk of heart disease and stroke increases in her 40s, as she moves into menopause, yet the Ipsos poll revealed that almost one-third of women claim not to have enough time each day to focus on their health. 

This prompted the Irish Heart Foundation to launch the Her Heart Matters campaign, which aims to encourage women approaching menopause to review their lifestyles and make sustainable changes to improve their heart health. 

“Eighty per cent of early heart disease and stroke can be prevented through small, sustainable changes to our lifestyle”, Janis Morrissey, the foundation’s Director of Health Promotion, stated at the launch. 

Menopause causes a drop in the levels in oestrogen, a hormone that blood vessels need to stay healthy and flexible. 

Presenter and TV personality Glenda Gilson launches the Irish Heart Foundation Her Heart Matters Campaign
photo Kieran Harnett

“Lower oestrogen, due to menopause, leads to higher LDL, or bad cholesterol. This can increase plaque buildup, stiffening the arteries and leading to high blood pressure. Therefore, it’s important that women in their 40s and 50s really take stock of their health and make efforts to live healthily”, Dr Brown explained. 

Three-quarters of women surveyed said that the topic of menopause had never been brought up during consultations with a healthcare professional, highlighting the need for wider discussion surrounding the link between menopause and heart disease. 

Her Heart Matters ambassador, presenter and TV personality, Glenda Gilson, commented at the campaign launch: “Women wear many hats so it isn’t uncommon for them to put themselves last and prioritise the health of those around them. 

“I was surprised to find out that I have high cholesterol, a risk factor in heart disease, so I know the importance of making heart health a priority and setting aside time for your wellbeing. I hope the Her Heart Matters campaign convinces women to listen to their bodies, put themselves on their to-do list and make their health a priority.” 

As part of the campaign, the Irish Heart Foundation is also holding a free webinar for women on World Heart Day, Thursday, September 29.

Register by visiting irishheart.ie

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