Heart Research UK in partnership with and clothing company Damart, recently launched a campaign to raise awareness of heart disease among over-40s women.
With women three times more likely to die from heart disease than breast cancer, our campaign involved a survey of over 4,000 women aged 40+ across the UK to gain and understand of their knowledge of heart health and their lifestyles.
Given that eight out of 10 coronary heart disease cases are preventable and can be tackled by reducing risk factors like smoking, unhealthy eating, being overweight and leading sedentary lifestyles, Heart research UK set out to find out more about women and heart disease.
Here are some of our key findings:
It is thought that the hormone oestrogen, may give some protection against coronary heart disease making women less likely to develop the disease than men before the menopause. After the menopause however, due to declining levels of oestrogen, risk of heart disease increases signiﬁcantly. Our findings showed that 57% of women were unaware that risk of heart disease increases after the menopause.
Atheroma, the build-up of fatty deposits in the artery walls happens slowly and is accelerated, amongst other things, by high levels of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and low levels of ‘good’ HDL cholesterol levels. Our survey found that 33% of women have never had their cholesterol levels checked.
Moving more and keeping physically active can help reduce your blood pressure, cholesterol levels and risk of heart disease. The Government recommends that adults participate in 150 minutes of moderately intensive activity per week yet 9% of women surveyed take no exercise at all.
Women fear dying from breast cancer but in fact women are almost three times more likely to die from heart disease. Our findings showed that 54% of women don’t know that coronary heart disease claims more women’s lives than breast cancer.
Keeping to a healthy weight and waistline promotes healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels as well as lower body fat. The recommended Body Mass Index (BMI), a ratio of weight to height, is between 18.5 and 24.9. Two in five (41%) of women surveyed were unaware of what a healthy BMI is.
What really matters however, is where fat is laid down and from a heart’s viewpoint, pear-shaped is better than apple-shaped as carrying too much fat around your tummy can also mean having excess fat around your internal organs, increasing your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease. A healthy waist circumference for women should be below 80 cm, which 63% of women surveyed were unaware of.
Oily fish such as mackerel, sardines, salmon and fresh tuna are rich sources of heart friendly omega-3 fats and adults with no heart disease diagnosis are advised to eat at least one portion of oily fish a week. Our findings showed that 50% of women think that tinned tuna counts as an oily fish which unfortunately is not the case.
Sorting out our ‘fat habits’, how much and the type of fat we eat, can have a big impact on our risk of heart disease. Coconut oil and other coconut based products has become very fashionable recently but these products are high in saturated fats which is bad news for your heart and arteries. Our survey found that 40% of women, incorrectly think that coconuts and coconut oil are a good source of ‘good’ mono-unsaturated fats.
Recommended maximum salt intake for adults is 6g salt (1 teaspoon) per day and, as many everyday food items are high in salt, it’s easy to get more than your body needs, increasing your risk of high blood pressure. Our survey showed 81% of women were unaware of the maximum daily recommended intake of salt.