How to protect yourself from biggest killer of women in the UK

As we come toward the end of February we are also coming to the end of the British Heart Foundation’s (BHF) National Heart Month. It’s also time to have a closer look at women’s heart health. Did you know, for example, that heart disease is the biggest killer of women in the UK?

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) kills as many women as it does men – that’s over a quarter of men and women. CVD includes all the diseases of the heart and circulation, including coronary heart disease (CHD - angina and heart attack) and stroke. There are over 900,000 women in the UK living with CHD. What’s more, CHD kills nearly three times more women than breast cancer.

South Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), the GP-led organisation that funds local health services, is backing National Heart Month. Dr Kevin Hill, Chair of NHS South Lincolnshire CCG, said: “Women tend to wait longer than men before calling 999 after first experiencing heart attack symptoms. This might be because women are less likely to recognise the symptoms, they’re reluctant to cause a fuss, or they don’t want to be embarrassed if it turns out that their situation isn’t serious. But this delay can dramatically reduce your chance of survival. If you think you are having a heart attack, don’t delay. The quicker you call 999 for an ambulance, the better your chance of survival.”

There are a number of risk factors for heart disease which are common to men and women. However, according to recent research physical inactivity is the greatest risk factor for heart disease among women over the age of 30.
Thembi Nkala, BHF Senior Cardiac Nurse, said: “We already know physical inactivity is a major risk factor for heart disease. Interestingly, this study shows its dominant influence on heart disease amongst women, and suggests a greater need to promote regular physical activity amongst this group.

“It’s important to remember that heart disease is linked to other factors such as smoking, obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. It’s essential to manage these too, as the more risk factors you have, the greater your chance of heart disease. Speak to your GP or Practice Nurse if you have any concerns about your heart health.”

Dr Hill, added: “The BHF have lots of help and facilities specifically for women. There’s an online community called The Women’s Room where you can find out about the risk factors for heart disease, hear personal stories from real women and learn how to maintain a healthy lifestyle - whether you’ve lived with a heart condition all of your life, just been diagnosed, or want to make your heart health a priority.”

BHF publishes a booklet called Women and Heart Disease which provides information to reduce your risk and keep your heart healthy. You can download it free from