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Monday, 10 February, 2003, 01:13 GMT
Women 'unaware of heart risk'
Heart monitor
Campaigners say women are unaware of heart risks
Women are "dangerously unaware" of the threat of heart disease, campaigners have warned.

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the biggest killer of women, but most consider cancer to be the greatest threat.

The British Heart Foundation says more must be done to alert women to the dangers of heart disease, which killed over 54,000 women in 2001 - more than four times the number killed by breast cancer.

The BHF is launching a campaign to urge women to take more care of their hearts, which will involve a national advertising campaign to raise awareness.

CHD risk factors
High blood pressure
High blood cholesterol
Being overweight or obese
Physical inactivity
Poor diet
Family history
Death rates from CHD amongst women are falling, but at a slower rate than for men, and slower than for women in other countries.

At least 1.2 million women are now living with heart disease.

The BHF says just one in four women realises that CHD is the number one threat.

The situation is even worse amongst women aged 16 to 24, where just one in 10 fear CHD, while almost half fear lung and breast cancer.

Many think the condition is only something men have to worry about.

Media portrayals

The BHF's survey of over 1,000 women found four out of five had never discussed heart disease with their GP or practice nurse, rising to 96% amongst 16-24 year olds.

Even two-thirds of women over 65, who are at greatest risk, had never had a conversation about heart disease.

Women of all ages need to be more aware of their hearts

Sir Charles George, British Heart Foundation
And only a few women are aware that high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure and family history are risk factors for CHD.

The BHF says women must look after their heart health, and calls on the press and TV dramas to help by showing heart disease affects women as well as men.

Stop smoking

Professor Sir Charles George, Medical Director at the BHF, said: "High-profile campaigns have already successfully raised awareness of disease areas such as breast cancer - whereas, in fact, women are more at risk from CHD.

"The media and health professionals have a responsibility to bridge this communications gap and to help women help themselves."

He added: "Fighting heart disease in women is a national concern, since one in six women will die of the disease.

"Women of all ages need to be more aware of their hearts and turn increased knowledge into action to reduce their risks.

"Women should make their hearts their number one health priority."

Health minister Hazel Blears said: "There is much that women - and men - can do to help prevent heart disease.

"We have set up world-class NHS smoking cessation services which have helped over 200,000 people quit for at least four weeks, and from Valentine's Day it will be illegal to advertise tobacco.

"We also have a comprehensive package of measures to improve nutrition and increase physical activity, both of which will contribute to tackling obesity."

More information about the BHF's campaign is available on 0870 909 0111.

See also:

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