Cardiovascular disease remains the “top killer” of women in Europe, despite misconceptions that it is a “man’s disease”, cardiologists have highlighted.
The European Society of Cardiology has called for women to reduce their risk comes from, highlighting that CVD kills 51% of women in Europe while breast cancer kills 3%.
“Women’s risk of heart disease tends to be underestimated”
Dr Susanna Price, a consultant cardiologist at London’s Royal Brompton Hospital and spokeswoman for the ESC, said: “CVD is still largely considered a man’s problem with breast cancer commonly perceived as the greater issue for women. However, CVD is the top killer of women in Europe.
“Women’s risk of heart disease tends to be underestimated… because of the perception that oestrogen protects them,” she said. “In reality, this just delays the onset of CVD by 10 years.
“The result is that women’s risk factors are left untreated, leaving them more vulnerable to heart attack, heart failure and sudden cardiac death when the protection fades after menopause,” she said.
Dr Price added that atypical symptoms were another reason CVD was “under-recognised and under-treated” in women.
“Instead of chest pain, women having a heart attack may experience nausea/vomiting, shortness of breath, jaw pain, fatigue, palpitations, syncope or cardiac arrest,” she said.
She noted that the effects of CVD were often worse in women than men. For example, she said women were more likely to be severely disabled after a stroke than men, possibly because women were less likely to reach hospital soon enough for effective thrombolysis.
Women take part in CVD screening less often than men, the researchers added, and the risks of smoking are also higher in women because they metabolise nicotine faster.
“Greater awareness is needed by women and the medical profession to ensure that women reduce their risk factors and decrease their chances of having a heart attack and stroke,” said Dr Price ahead of International Women’s Day on 8 March.