CVD is the leading cause of premature death in Australian women and this Connector provides a range of freely available resources relating to CVD and women.
The National Heart Foundation reports that while men suffer twice as many heart attacks as women, women are more likely to die from them. Women are also more likely to die of stroke than men. In recognition of this, a substantial amount of new research is being published which takes a gendered approach to CVD.
Australian and international studies have found that as women’s symptoms are less likely to be recognised by women themselves and by health professionals, women are less likely to be told they are at-risk and be given appropriate medical treatment, which may contribute to women’s high mortality rates.
The Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health has found that lack of physical activity is the largest risk factor for women over 30. Menopause compounds other traditional risk factors for developing CVD through changes in body fat distribution, insulin resistance and lower oestrogen levels. Pregnancy and menopause also complicate the treatment of hypertension, itself a major contributor to CVD.
Risk factors for women are also compounded by disadvantage, environmental and socioeconomic factors:
Under-representation of women in cardiovascular trials and research has also resulted in a gender-blind approach to treatment. As a result, prevention strategies and treatment have not been tailored towards women and key opportunities to reduce the incidence of chronic disease have been missed, compounding unequal outcomes for women. However public awareness campaigns, professional training for medical staff and greater investment in research that takes account of sex differences in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease in women are expected to improve health outcomes for women in the coming years.
Women's Health Victoria (2016) Cardiovascular disease (CVD) and women. Women's Health Victoria. Melbourne. - (Clearinghouse Connector; February 2016)