Women 'more concerned by breast cancer than heart disease despite higher risk'

Woman are more concerned with breast cancer
Woman are more concerned with breast cancer
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Women are more concerned about the risk of breast cancer than ischaemic heart disease, according to new research - despite the latter killing three times as many.

A survey of around 1,000 women for British Heart Foundation (BHF) Scotland found breast cancer was a concern for 57% but heart disease was 6% lower at 51%.

The cardiovascular disease, which includes heart attacks and angina, kills around 2,600 women in Scotland each year - roughly seven every day - with 100,000 said to be living with the condition.

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The charity's report also highlighted the need for action with Kylie Strachan, policy and public affairs manager, saying: "Women are suffering and dying because of the inequalities they face in the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease.

"Our survey findings confirm that we need to improve understanding of the risks for women and increase their awareness of the symptoms of a heart attack.

"We must also promote equality of treatment for women with heart disease within the healthcare system, at every point in their journey.

"The Scottish Government's commitment to a Women's Health Plan is an important first step and a welcome one.

"We believe this work could be accelerated and amplified with the appointment of a Women's Heart Champion and look forward to working collaboratively to help ensure more women's lives are saved, and women make a better recovery from heart disease in the future."

Professor Colin Berry, cardiology and imaging at the University of Glasgow and Golden Jubilee National Hospital, said: "At every stage - from the moment they experience symptoms through to their rehabilitation - women with heart disease can face disadvantages.

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"This has to change.

"We know that women often wait longer before calling 999 after first experiencing heart attack symptoms. But that delay can dramatically reduce the chance of survival.

"Women may be less likely to receive a timely diagnosis and, even after the event, women are less likely to be offered cardiac rehabilitation to improve their recovery.

"It is incumbent on us all to work together to address these issues to help save and improve lives."

Recent research by healthcare firm Abbott involving 2,000 Scottish men and women over 35 and found more than half (52%) admitted to unhealthy lifestyle choices such as a poor diet, regular smoking or lack of exercise.

Only a third (35%) in Generation X - those born between the mid-1960s and early 1980s (aged 35-54) - said they had taken meaningful steps towards understanding their heart health.

This figure rose to 59% for "baby boomers", with 35% of that 55-plus age group saying they had spoken to a medical professional about their heart health - while only 17% of those in Generation X had done so.

Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, Dr Catherine Calderwood, said: "The number of deaths from heart disease has reduced significantly over recent years due to improved medical care, reduced smoking and increased awareness that lifestyle improvement plays a significant part in saving what was previously seen as an "inevitable" death.

"The Scottish Government is aware that improvements in healthcare need to recognise the specific needs of women with heart disease.

"The Scottish Programme for Government 2019/20 commits to establishing a Women's Health Plan to tackle women's health inequalities.

"This will include the reduction of inequalities in health outcomes for women's general health, including work on cardiac disease."