What is the risk?
Many women are not aware of the high risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Did you know?
- Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Australian women
- 90% of women in Australia have at least one risk factor for heart disease
- Women are 4 times more likely to die from heart disease than breast cancer
- 2/3 of women are not aware heart disease is such a risk for them
What are the causes?
There are many causes. Each cause is a factor in developing cardiovascular disease. The more factors a woman has in her life, the higher her risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
There are many familiar causes like being overweight, lack of physical activity, poor nutrition and smoking. Some causes we can't do much about – such as having a family history of cardiovascular disease. And there are some lesser known causes to consider such as depression and feeling isolated from loved ones and friends. The following list discusses the common causes of cardiovascular diseases.
|Cause||What happens||What you can do|
|High blood pressure (hypertension)||
Having consistently high blood pressure can:
|Have an annual blood pressure check.|
|High total blood cholesterol||
Activities that help to manage and lower cholesterol are:
If you need help to reduce or quit smoking, visit quit.org.au or call 13 7848.
Activities that help to manage and lower the risk of diabetes include:
|Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)||
||If you know you have this risk factor, it is important to take action to reduce other risk factors.|
|Excess weight & physical inactivity||
||Go to healthy living for help with weight management and increasing physical activity to combat this risk.|
|Family history||Being part of a family with a history of heart disease is an important indicator in whether a woman has an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease.||This is important information to tell your doctor.|
|Ethnic background||Some ethnic groups including Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease.||Discuss with your doctor how your family background may influence your risk of developing cardiovascular disease and what you can do to reduce other risk factors.|
|Ageing and menopause||As women age beyond menopause, factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes become more common; increasing the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.||Women are entitled to a Medicare health check between the ages 45-49 at which they can discuss menopause and any increased risk they may have of developing cardiovascular disease.|
|Depression and feeling alone||Research shows having depression and feeling socially isolated increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.||More information about coping with depression is available here.|
What to do next?
Knowing what causes cardiovascular disease is the first step. The next step is knowing how to reduce the risk of developing it. Healthy eating, weight management, physical activity and some supplements can help prevent cardiovascular disease and support your cardiovascular health.
The following list is a summary of the checks that are important for women's cardiovascular health:
- See your doctor for a discussion about your risks of developing cardiovascular disease including your family history and ethnic background
- Have an annual blood pressure check
- Have an annual blood test to measure your cholesterol
- Test for diabetes by having your blood glucose checked
- If you are a smoker discuss with your doctor all of the factors which affect your risk of developing cardiovascular disease
- Discuss your weight with your doctor to determine if this is a risk factor for you
Carrington, M and Stewart S. Australia's Cholesterol Crossroads: An analysis of 199,331 GP patient cholesterol records from 2004 to 2009. July 2010, Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute, Melbourne, Australia
Lombard C, Deeks A, Jolley D, Teede H. (2009). Preventing weight gain: the baseline weight related behaviors and delivery of a randomized controlled intervention in community based women, Journal: BMC Public Health, 9(1); 2
Davies et al. 'Intergenerational associations of chronic disease and polycystic ovary syndrome' PLoS ONE 2011 Oct 5;6(10)
Bunker SJ, Colquhoun DM, Esler MD, et al. Position statement 'Stress' and heart disease: psychosocial risk factors. MJA 2003 178(6): 272-276
Last updated 09 November 2017 — Last reviewed 15 January 2014
** Currently under review **
This web page is designed to be informative and educational. It is not intended to provide specific medical advice or replace advice from your health practitioner. The information above is based on current medical knowledge, evidence and practice as at January 2014.