Today is World Heart Day (29 September), which is organised by the World Heart Federation and aims to raise awareness of heart disease through education, advocacy and research, focuses on women’s heart health. The British Heart Foundation reports more than 30,000 women die from coronary artery disease in the UK every year with more 700,000 women living with the consequences of heart disease but also notes that women often wait longer than men before calling an ambulance after experiencing symptoms of a heart attack.
According to Cliff Bucknall (consultant cardiologist, London Bridge Hospital, London, UK), many women believe that heart disease is a condition that only affects men. He says: “This is simply not true and as a result, women are less likely to be aware of the associated risks, particularly, around heart disease and contraception.” Bucknall adds that for most women taking oral contraception, there is a very low risk of experiencing a heart attack. However, this does rise with age as the risk of having a heart attack rises significantly following the menopause. “There are different types of hormonal contraception which can have different effects on the formation of blood clots and potential heart attacks. Consequently, it is extremely important for women to discuss with their healthcare provider the birth control options that carry the least risk for them,” he notes.
Bucknall advises that there are “simple self-help actions” that women can take to reduce their risk of heart disease—“These include, giving up smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and undertaking more physical activity.”