Half of GPs in the UK say they don't have enough time to talk to women patients about coronary heart disease (CHD), a survey suggests.
Obesity is a risk factor for CHD
Nearly three quarters of those surveyed said the incidence of CHD among women would fall if they had more time to talk about it.
And eight out of 10 believed more women would make lifestyle changes - such as stopping smoking or being more physically active - to reduce their risk if they were given practical advice during consultations.
Not only would this save lives, it would slash the £7bn that CHD costs the UK economy each year.
Research, published last year in the British Medical Journal, suggests GPs spend an average of just nine minutes with each patient.
This compares with an average of 15 minutes in Switzerland and Belgium and a European average of almost 11 minutes.
The survey was commissioned by the Doctor Patient Partnership (DPP), which is launching a campaign to improve communication between doctors and their female patients about the risks of CHD.
CHD kills 54,491 women in the UK every year - the single biggest cause of death.
However, the survey indicated that almost a third of GPs (31%) are more concerned about the risk of other diseases such as breast cancer.
This is despite the fact that women are four times more likely to die of a heart problem than breast cancer.
Dr Simon Fradd, a GP and chairman of the DPP, said: "The fact that over a third of GPs (40%) say they need more guidance on talking to women about CHD is a clear indication that health care professionals need more support.
"We believe that the new GP contract will offer general practice the resources needed to ensure patients are better informed on their health risks by appropriately qualified health care professionals.
"However, GPs cannot be expected to solve this issue alone.
"Women need to be made more aware of the risks so they can be much more proactive about their own health and ask for practical advice to ensure they reduce their risk of developing serious diseases such as CHD."
Nearly three quarters of women aged 45 and over surveyed (74%) said they had never asked their GP about heart health, while a third (33%) did not think they were at risk.
But almost nine out of 10 (88%) said they would take action to reduce their risk - if they knew how.
Research suggests that as women reach the menopause their risk of coronary heart disease increases to the same level as men.