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Women and cardiovascular disease

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Cardiovascular diseases are a leading cause of death in women but by introducing small changes to their day-to-day life, women can lower their cholesterol levels and significantly improve their health outcomes

Burden of disease

Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are the leading cause of mortality both in men and women in the UK, accounting for one in three deaths for both sexes[1]. However, the risk of heart disease in women is underestimated because it is perceived that women are “protected” against coronary heart disease (CHD)[2]. CHD causes more deaths than any other single disease in the UK; in 2008, around 50,000 men and 40,000 women died from CHD.[1] This difference in numbers could suggest that CHD risk is less in women.

Women and cardiovascular disease

What is not fully understood is that premenopausal women seem to have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease but this protection fades after menopause, thereby
leaving women with untreated risk factors and more vulnerable to developing cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, clinical manifestations of CHD in women may be
different from those commonly observed in males and this factor may account for under-recognition of the disease.[3] Evidence suggests that clinical manifestation
of CVD develops later in women than in men, giving the perception of protection, yet, it is the major cause of death in women older than 65 years of age[3].

Women and cholesterol

Elevated low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is widely accepted as a key modifiable risk factor for CHD. In 2008, around six in 10 men and women in England
had raised blood cholesterol levels of greater than 5.0mmol/l[2]. During the menopause, women’s cholesterol levels rise along with the fall in hormones; this
can impact on CVD risk.[4] In general, as the population ages, the prevalence of raised blood cholesterol is higher in women than in men. For example, 66% of women aged 75 and over in England had raised blood cholesterol in 2008 compared with 39% of men of the same age.[1]

Way forward

There is a growing knowledge of women and CHD/CVD, and both European and American guidelines are reflecting this [2,5]. There is plenty to be done in the professional arena to get these guidelines into everyday clinical practice. For women themselves, aiming to live a healthier lifestyle, including smoking cessation, physical activity, dietary modification along with being the right weight for height, are key to helping improve outcomes.

One way women can actively reduce their cholesterol could be to add plant sterol-containing foods into their diet, such as Flora pro.activ to help reduce their
elevated blood cholesterol levels. So far, 88 clinical studies have proven that plant sterols actively lower blood cholesterol.

High cholesterol is a major risk factor in the development of heart disease.* Consuming 1.5-2.4g of plant sterols per day can lower LDL cholesterol by 7-10% in 2-3
weeks [6]. This equates to one mini-drink or three portions of pro.activ spreads or milk every day. An additional 5% reduction can be achieved when this is combined with the move to a healthy balanced diet and lifestyle [7].

Laura Tari, nutritionist at Flora pro.activ, says, “We need to get more women thinking about their heart health - it’s never too late to change diet and lifestyle
habits and help protect the heart.” Flora pro.activ and the British Heart Foundation are working together to raise awareness of heart disease among women by launching the Love Your Heart campaign.

To gain a more in-depth knowledge about women and heart disease, and to find out how you can make a difference in your day-to-day practice, reserve a place at the FREE Love Your Heart seminar taking place at the exclusive Langham Hotel, London W1B 1JA on Thursday 1 November from 10am-12.30pm.

Following the Love Your Heart seminar, you will:

  • Recognise the myths and misconceptions about heart health in women;
  • Understand the barriers to instigating behaviour change;
  • Receive a luxury goodie bag.


To reserve your place now, simply email

*As heart disease has multiple risk factors, you may need to improve more than one to reduce your overall risk.


  1. Coronary Heart Disease Statistics 2010. BHF 2010
  3. JH Mieres. Review of the American Heart Association’s guidelines for cardiovascular disease prevention in women. Heart 2006; 92: iii10-iii13 doi:10.1136/hrt.2005.070326
  4. Bittner V. Menopause, age and cardiovascular risk. Am Coll Cardiol. 2009; 54(25): 2374-2375
  6. Katan MB et al. Efficacy and safety of plant stanols and sterols in the management of blood cholesterol levels. Mayo Clin Proc 2003 Aug; 78(8):965-978
  7. Novel Foods Approval - European Commission
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