More women than men suffer heart disease

New campaign aims to dispel myth that cardiac illness is a male preserve

The stereotype of the overweight, unfit bloke as a heart attack in waiting masks a deadly fact. In fact, more young women suffer from cardiovascular problems than men, heart experts warn. Across the UK, there are 710,000 women, aged 16-44, living with heart disease compared to 570,000 men, according to British Heart Foundation (BHF) research.

Professor Peter Weissberg, BHF medical director, said clear signs of heart complaints are going unnoticed by women. “There’s a great tendency for women to ignore symptoms because they think of it as a man’s problem. Women are affected by heart disease and sometimes more than men.”

Doctors believe the higher rates among women are due in part to their susceptibility to certain rarer diseases, such as coronary artery dissection, where around eight out of ten cases are women.

They warn these rare conditions are going seriously under-researched.

Amongst the conditions which young women are prone to - and which experts say need more research - are valvular heart disease, dissection of the coronary artery and heart complications associated with lupus.

Professor Peter Weissberg, BHF medical director, said: “We’ve seen heart attack deaths plummet in older people in the last 20 years but I suspect these rarer forms of heart disease have stayed pretty stable… We’re doing a lot of research on the more common heart problems that affect people in middle to later age and are having great success at that and now we need to focus our attention on some of the more rare conditions that affect younger people.”

The  number of young women living with cardiovascular disease has remained higher than men for several years. In 2006 there were 760,000 women living with heart conditions, compared to 580,000 men.

It is estimated that one in every four men and one in every six women die from heart disease.

Dr Bernard Prendergast, honorary secretary of the British Cardiovascular Society and a consultant cardiologist at Oxford’s John Radcliffe hospital, said: “Traditionally women have been under-represented in clinical research. Men and women differ and it doesn’t follow that research into male patients are relevant to women. Often when you divide men and women in a study the results are different.

“Valvular heart disease is under-researched as well as  rare conditions and congenital heart disease. Rightly so, the dominant research has been in ischaemic heart disease [angina] because that’s the number-one killer. But the epidemic of that is falling and other diseases are taking their place.”

Michelle White was diagnosed with a mitral valve prolapse - a degeneration of a valve on the left of the heart - when she was 26. She had had symptoms for more than a decade but doctors put her teenage fainting episodes down to exam stress. The athletic mother of three from Manchester has twice had open heart surgery and is fitted with a pacemaker. Doctors say she is lucky to be alive.

“I was at work and I blacked out”, she recalls. “After a series of tests they discovered I had a congenital heart condition and my heart was stopping, meaning I blacked out. I’m not overweight, I was very athletic - in my wildest imagination, a heart problem hadn’t occurred to me. The doctors didn’t have a clue why I had this - they were rolling with the punches like me. The first thing they said was I must’ve had rheumatic fever as a child, but I didn’t, and there was no history of heart disease in the family. So why did I have it? Nobody knows. I still have no idea how I could be walking around as a young person and collapse and die at any time. They said I was near-enough impossible - I was a walking miracle.”

Last night Ms White appeared for the first time in a BHF television campaign, aimed at smashing the unhealthy male stereotype.

Almost 180,000 people die every year from circulatory system failures in the UK - and 91,550 of them are women. This higher number of women is not thanks to the younger cohort, however, but largely because of the high number of fatal strokes in women over-75.

Dr Martin Landray, an epidemiologist at Oxford University, says that one reason for a knowledge gap between the sexes is that drug trials and medical research into heart conditions still struggle to include as many women as men. “A typical study of cholesterol lowering drugs might have fewer than one in five of the people in it being women,” he said , adding that when he conducted a large-scale trial of cholesterol treatment last year, almost half as many women volunteered to take part than men. “Women need to recognise that heart disease is important and the way to understand if women respond in the same way to drugs as men, is getting more women into these studies. It’s a recognised problem that women are under-represented in clinical trials. There may be social reasons for that,  such as maybe many of the women are fundamental to the care of those around them. Or it may be that the whole concept of clinical trials seem more frightening to women than men. Or it may be the nature of the invite and approach comes across as less friendly to women than men.”

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
i100
Sport
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
boxing
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

    £70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

    Nursery Nurse

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

    Nursery Nurse

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

    SEN Teaching Assistant

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

    Day In a Page

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments