Published Thursday, February 25th, 2021 at 13:00 pm
Consultant Interventional Cardiologist for the Mater Private Network, Dr Róisín Colleran is encouraging women in Ireland to “listen to your heart” and to look out for the early signs and symptoms of heart disease.
Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of death in Ireland and women are almost seven times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than breast cancer. Each year, almost 5,000 women in Ireland die from heart disease and stroke. However, up to 90 per cent of premature death from cardiovascular disease is preventable.
The most common symptom of angina or heart attack in both women and men is central chest discomfort, often described as a pressure, heaviness, tightness or squeezing. However, in women, symptoms can be more subtle than in men, making the diagnosis more likely to be delayed or missed, sometimes being attributed to anxiety, menopause, stress or over-exertion. Women are more likely than men to experience symptoms such as stomach, back or throat pain, indigestion, nausea or vomiting, shortness of breath, or fatigue rather than chest pain.
The best defence against heart disease and stroke is to know the risk factors and pay attention to the warning signs – measures such as quitting smoking, a heart-healthy diet and regular exercise can significantly reduce your risk. In addition, women should get to know their heart health numbers – blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar level – and work with their doctor to make sure these are at target.
Specific Risks Factors Affecting Women:
A history of pre-eclampsia, high blood pressure or diabetes during pregnancy are risk factors for heart disease specific to women. If a woman has had any of these conditions, they should take extra care to try to control other risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
In general, women develop cardiovascular disease 10 years later than men thanks to the protective effects of oestrogen before menopause. After menopause, there are changes in body composition, fat distribution, and cholesterol levels and women become more prone to heart disease and stroke.
Women who go through early menopause, either naturally or because they have had their ovaries removed, are twice as likely to develop heart disease as women of the same age who have not yet gone through menopause.
Consultant Interventional Cardiologist Dr Róisín Colleran said:
“While we can’t change some risk factors, such as age and family history of early heart disease, there is something we can do at every stage of life to reduce our risk of heart disease and stroke.
Being more physically active, eating a heart-healthy diet, and not smoking are important steps for your heart health. You can make the changes gradually, one at a time. But making them is very important.”