By: 14 October 2016
Women unaware of menopause risk to the heart

Women could be storing up health problems for the future because they are not aware that their heart disease risk increases after the menopause, a new survey has revealed.

The survey, conducted by Yorkshire-based national charity Heart Research UK and clothing brand Damart, as part of its #LovingHearts campaign, questioned over 4,000 women about their understanding of their heart health and found that:

•       More than half of the women questioned (57 per cent) were unaware that their risk of coronary heart disease increases after the menopause
•       82 per cent of those surveyed are not doing the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity a week. Only 11 per cent were exceeding it.
•       A third of women have never had their cholesterol checked
•       Nearly half (48 per cent) have never had their blood pressure checked or not had it done in the last six months

The Heart Research UK and Damart survey set out to discover what women know about their heart health, in particular whether they are aware of key risk factors like blood pressure, cholesterol as well as lifestyle issues such as exercise and nutrition.

Over 900,000 women in the UK have coronary heart disease and it is responsible for almost 28,000 deaths in women every year.

Dr Catherine Dickinson, Consultant Cardiologist at Leeds General Infirmary and spokesperson for Heart Research UK, said the lack of understanding among women of the effects of the menopause on their heart was a real concern.

“Women fear dying from breast cancer but the fact is that we are almost three times more likely to die from heart disease,” said Dr Dickinson.  “This survey shows that most women do not appreciate that their risk increases after the menopause because falling hormone levels raise their risk of heart disease to the risk levels for men.”

It is thought that hormones, such as oestrogen, give some protection against coronary heart disease.  After the menopause, however, as levels of oestrogen decline, the risk of coronary heart disease increases significantly.

The survey results suggest an improvement in the delivery of important health checks to women aged 45 to 54, which the charity welcomes.  However, two in five respondents (40 per cent) under the age of 45 had either never had their blood pressure checked or hadn’t had it checked in the past 12 months.

This could also mean that opportunities to spot pre-cursors for heart disease, and to give women appropriate lifestyle advice and possible treatment, are missed or delayed.

Dr Dickinson also said it was worrying that few women exercise enough, have their blood pressure checked or know their cholesterol levels – all things that are important in the prevention of heart disease.

“The good news is that by making a few simple and positive steps we can prevent or reduce the likelihood of developing heart disease by following the guidance on exercise, knowing our blood pressure is controlled and lowering our cholesterol levels,” she added.

Source: Heart Research UK