FACT: coronary heart disease kills more than twice as many women as breast cancer in the UK every year, and is the single biggest killer of women worldwide
FACT: more than 800,000 women in the UK are living with coronary heart disease, which is the main cause of heart attacks.
FACT: 35,000 women are admitted to hospital following a heart attack each year in the UK – an average of 98 women per day, or 4 per hour.
FACT: Heart disease is often perceived to be a ‘man’s disease’. This misconception is one of the contributing factors that means two women a day die needlessly from heart attacks because they are 50% more likely to be misdiagnosed initially, receiving poorer aftercare and fewer treatments than men, according to Bias and Biology Report by the British Heart Foundation.
This is shocking injustice; the report also indicates it’s not just the UK where this inequality exists, it is the same in the US and Canada. It’s a bit like the gender pay gap which unlike our health, affects our pocket. Being aware that it is not just men who have heart attacks is the first step to staying healthy.
Many women today, are not only juggling with the same daily battles as men (relationships, money, work, and children) but also the constant battle to be recognised and paid the same as their male peers.
The psychological impact of the working environment may contribute to the development of heart diseases, such as a combination of high work demands and low job control. We often link stress to the cause of heart disease; however, stress alone won’t give you a heart and circulatory problems. Stress is linked to unhealthy habits that can increase your risk. When people are stressed, they often turn to unhealthy habits like smoking, eating comfort food that’s often high in fat or sugar, drinking too much alcohol or not being physically active. In the moment, these things can make us feel relaxed. But if we do too much of them in the long run, it can harm our heart health. These lifestyle choices outside of work can have a fundamental impact on your vulnerability to heart disease.
Smoking: Smokers are twice as likely to have a heart attack as non-smokers. Smoking damages the lining of the arteries and leads to the build-up of fatty deposits. The carbon monoxide in the smoke reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood which means the heart must pump harder to get enough oxygen around the body.
Poor diet, alcohol consumption and lack of exercise can lead to weight gain and obesity which are bad for the heart by raising blood cholesterol levels and blood pressure and increasing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is caused by high levels of glucose in the blood which can affect the walls of the arteries and increase the build-up of fatty deposits. Drinking too much alcohol and having too much salt in your diet can also lead to high blood pressure.
We can reduce the impact of heart disease by making small, healthy changes over time, like eating your five-a-day or going for a 30-minute walk to reduce the feeling of stress. Taking care of yourself by eating well, being active, getting enough sleep and quitting bad habits will help you feel better and protect your heart.
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