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Heart health is the blanket name given to cardiovascular disease, a term that covers a wide range of conditions including heart disease, stroke and genetic heart problems.
Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death in women? Year-on-year, it is responsible for many more deaths than breast cancer, though this is considered as a 'more serious' condition.
Stereotypically, heart health conditions have been associated with unfit and overweight men, but the reality is that that more women are suffering from cardiovascular problems than men.
According to the British Heart Foundation, more than 700,000 women in the UK aged 16 - 44 are living with heart disease, compared to 570,000 men. It is thought that this is because women are more likely to develop rarer forms of heart disease than men.
The symptoms of heart disease are different in women than in men, though it is not fully understood why. As a result, heart disease can often be misdiagnosed. Diagnosis by techniques such as angiography and angioplasty, for example, as well as by bypass surgery, can be more difficult to do in women as they have smaller and lighter arteries than men.
Because of this, it is very important to be aware of the different symptoms associated with cardiovascular disease in women, which differ from those of men.
For example, research published in the journal Circulation showed that most women (70 per cent) did not list chest pain as a commonly experienced symptom, though 80 per cent of women had experienced one or more symptoms a month before the heart attack.
Although the risk factors for heart disease are the same in men and women, the level of risk for some is greater in women than men.
While all risk factors for heart disease are serious, the following pose a more serious risk in women:
Cholesterol is a type of fat (lipid). There are two kinds of cholesterol: 'bad' LDL cholesterol, and 'good' HDL cholesterol. Bad LDL cholesterol has been linked to heart disease as it can clog your arteries and reduce blood flow.
Oestrogen is a natural hormone that helps to protect women from heart disease by increasing HDL cholesterol levels and reducing LDL cholesterol levels. This means that after the menopause, where a women's natural oestrogen levels drop, women are more likely to develop heart disease.
Women with diabetes often have added risk factors for heart disease, including obesity, hypertension (high blood pressure) and high cholesterol. Having diabetes decreases the 10-year advantage a woman may have over a man in the development of heart disease.
Diabetes also doubles the chance of having a second heart attack and increases the risk of heart failure in women who have already had a heart attack.
Metabolic syndrome is the name given to a group of health risks that increase your chances of developing heart disease, stroke and diabetes. These include; large waist size, high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels and high cholesterol. It appears, in women, that metabolic syndrome is one of the most important risk factors for having a heart attack at an early age.
Smoking is one of the main risk factors in the development of coronary heart disease. Female smokers are twice as likely to have a heart attack than male smokers. Women are also less likely to succeed in quitting smoking, and are more likely to start again than men. It is thought that this is because nicotine replacement may not be as effective in women because of the effect of the menstrual cycle on tobacco withdrawal symptoms.