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Heart Diseases in Women and How to prevent it

Heart disease is for middle-aged men to worry about isn’t it?
Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women even in advance countries like Australia. Women are almost three times more likely to die of it than breast cancer.
These are alarming figures but they don’t need to be. The Go Red for Women campaign is designed to raise awareness about women and heart disease, encourage women to understand the risks and make healthier choices to reduce their risk.
Heart disease is largely preventable. Start by learning what you need to know:

  • The heart disease risk factors, including being overweight, being physically inactive, smoking and having a family history of heart disease
  • The clinical heart disease risk factors, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Almost 30% of Australian women have one or more of these yet many don’t know they are risk factors that must be managed. These risk factors don’t usually have obvious symptoms.
  • The link between menopause and heart disease
  • How taking oral contraceptives can affect the risk of developing heart disease
  • Whether hormone replacement therapy should be used to treat heart disease in women

Don’t let a heart attack be your first sign of heart disease.
We have consolidated some questions and answers for Heart Diseases in women:
Common questions
Below you will find answers to many of the common questions and myths around women and heart disease.

Q1. Doesn’t heart disease only happen to middle-aged and older men?
No. Heart disease kills almost as many Australian women as men. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of Australian women – on average it kills almost 9,708 women each year or 27 women each day.

Q2. I have no signs of heart disease. Surely I would know if I was at risk?
The signs of heart disease are not always obvious, and a heart attack can often be the first indicator.
There is no single cause of heart disease but there are risk factors that increase your chance of developing it. Risk factors include lifestyle habits, such as smoking or being overweight, as well as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and a family history of heart disease.
These risk factors often don’t have symptoms.
So, how can you find out if you are at risk of heart disease?

Visit your doctor to get a heart health check, which involves discussing your heart disease risks with your GP and getting your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked.

Q3. I’m in the prime of my life. Surely I don’t need to be concerned about heart disease?
With heart disease the No. 1 killer of Australian women, all women need to understand heart disease and how it could be relevant to them.
Your risk of heart disease increases significantly after you reach menopause. It’s not clear why, although it appears that the hormone oestrogen may give some protection against heart disease during our reproductive years.
Regardless of this, it is vital that all Australian women, especially those aged 45 and over, understand the risk factors and signs of heart disease because they are four times more likely to die of it than breast cancer.

Q4. Don’t more women die of breast cancer than heart disease?
No. Australian women are more than three times more likely to die of heart disease than breast cancer.
Cancer organisations have done an excellent job raising the profile of breast cancer and all women should continue to be vigilant in understanding this disease. The Heart Foundation encourages women to be just as vigilant in looking after their heart health.

Q5. I’d know if I had high blood pressure wouldn’t I? Why is it even a problem?
Not necessarily. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, means your blood is pumping at a higher pressure than normal through your blood vessels. This forces your heart to work harder to pump blood to your vital organs.
There are often no symptoms of high blood pressure, which makes it even more dangerous. High blood pressure can lead to other health problems, including heart disease. The only way to find out if you have high blood pressure is by getting it checked by your health professional.

Q6. Why do I need to care about cholesterol?
Because there are often no symptoms associated with it and you don’t need to be overweight to have high cholesterol levels.
Cholesterol is a naturally produced substance found in your blood. When you have high cholesterol levels, it can lead to hardened blood vessels which could become clogged with plaque. This can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
The only way to find out if you have high blood cholesterol levels is by getting them checked regularly by your doctor.

Q7. Does Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) prevent heart disease?
The Heart Foundation does not recommend Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) in the treatment or prevention of heart disease.

HRT, which includes oestrogen replacement, has been used to treat menopausal symptoms in the short-term for many years. It has also been used in the treatment of osteoporosis for some women after menopause.
Before commencing HRT, such as for the short-term treatment of menopausal symptoms, we strongly recommend discussing the risks and benefits of HRT with your doctor.

Q8. Does oral contraception (‘the pill’) affect your heart disease risks?
Oral contraceptives (‘the pill’) are usually safe for healthy young women. However, women who smoke while taking it greatly increase their risk of heart, stroke and blood vessel disease.
Always speak to your doctor about your choice of contraception and any associated risks.

Q9. What can I do to prevent heart disease?
Heart disease is largely preventable. You can reduce your risks of heart disease by living a healthier lifestyle, including:

    • Be smoke free
    • Enjoy healthy eating
    • Be physically active
    • Manage your blood pressure
    • Manage your cholesterol levels
    • Achieve and maintain a healthy body weight
    • Maintain your mental health and well being
    • Take any medicines as prescribed
    Article Courtesy: Pharmaceutical Society of Australia
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