GP urges women to learn about their heart health, as research says majority don’t know common risks


An NHS GP has urged women to learn more about their heart health, as new research suggests 94% of women are not aware that polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) has an effect.

Women who suffer from PCOS are more likely to suffer future cardiovascular issues, including a stroke or a heart attack, many studies have found.

A survey of 2,000 UK women, commissioned by My Health Checked, conducted by Censuswide, found that 92% also aren’t aware that experiencing preeclampsia – a condition that causes high-blood pressure in pregnancy or postpartum – can put them at risk of heart issues later on in life.

While 87% had no idea that going through menopause is a risk factor too.

NHS GP Dr Dave Nichols said: “It’s so important for women to understand what can lead them to an increased risk of heart issues, as there’s so much interplay with their hormones.

“Historically, heart disease has been considered as a disease which predominantly affects men, so increasing awareness for how it presents in women and the risk factors is crucial.”

Whilst many of the risk factors for heart disease are the same for both genders including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, smoking, lack of physical activity, and diabetes – there are female-specific risk factors such as hormonal changes, pre-eclampsia or gestational diabetes.

“The symptoms of heart disease can be vague, so speaking with a medical professional is important if you are experiencing new or unusual symptoms,” he says.

Symptoms could include neck, jaw or abdominal discomfort, indigestion, nausea, dizziness or lightheadedness, sweating, unusual fatigue, headaches, numbness or burning in your arms or fingers or a sudden feeling of anxiety that can feel like a panic attack.

“It’s crucial to speak with a medical professional if you’re concerned, particularly as every woman’s body and heart are different,” said Nichols.

Although, many women surveyed were willing to make the necessary lifestyle changes to improve their heart health, with 62% saying they would increase the amount of exercise they do and 53% said they would reduce the amount of salt in their diet.

Reducing alcohol intake and less caffeine can also reduce the risks.

“Walking more is an easy way to increase your fitness, as is using the stairs and starting to incorporate bodyweight exercises into your fitness routine,” he added.

“I’d encourage any smoker, whether they be a cigarette or cigar smoker, to stop smoking to reduce this risk.”

The NHS offers free stop-smoking services. Contacting your GP surgery for advice would be a good place to start. Nicotine replacement products are often used to support patients in their journey.

“Increase the amount of Omega 3 in your body to help improve your blood lipid profile and reduce your risk of cardiovascular diseases,” advises Nichols. “Oily fish is the best source of Omega 3 fats and consuming more is the easiest way to increase your uptake.” But if you can’t eat enough, supplements are recommended.

“Having a high-sugar diet, for example, by drinking large amounts of fizzy drinks, can have significant effects on your health, especially when consumed long-term.”

MyHealthChecked’s Heart Profile DNA Test (£54.00 from Boots) analyses DNA to show any risks associated with your heart health .



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