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6 ways to look after your heart (from women who know)

Heart disease doesn’t only affect fit old guys. It claims the lives of more than 32,000 women in the UK each year – compared to 12,000 for breast cancer. We ask women of the British Heart Foundation for their tips on prevention

An estimated 3.3 million British women are said to be living with some sort of heart problem. The British Heart Foundation (BHF) is urging women to pay more attention to their heart health in order to reduce the number of women in the UK dying from heart and circulatory disease each year.

Determined to bust the myth that only men die from heart problems, Maureen Talbot, a Senior Cardiac Nurse at the BHF, said: ‘Too few women realise that heart and circulatory disease is their biggest killer’.

heart 3She added: ‘If more women knew they were at risk, they could do something about it, whether that’s losing a bit of weight, quitting smoking or just taking the dog out for longer walks.’

Heart and circulatory disease claims the lives of more than 32,000 women in the UK each year (compared to 12,000 for breast cancer). Despite these shocking figures, campaigns for breast cancer awareness are everywhere (not a bad thing) and the majority of women are fully aware of the dangers, while the dangers of heart disease – women’s biggest killer – remain relatively under the radar of public knowledge.

heart 4In order to help our own hearts, Healthista have gathered some golden tips on prevention from some BHF ‘Women with Heart’ who have made exceptional contributions to improving the UK’s heart health.

Lindsay-Kay Leaver, heart nurse

Lindsay-Kay is a Cardiac Adolescent and Transition Clinical Nurse Specialist at Great Ormond Street Hospital. She supports teenagers as they move into adult care services where they learn to take responsibility for their own illness and appointments. She also volunteers at BHF summer camps for teenagers living with heart conditions.

Lindsay_WWHHer tip for prevention: ‘Know your family history. If someone in your family has a heart condition, it could mean you are more likely to develop one too so talk to your relatives, and then your GP if you’re worried.’


Dr Jane Flint, consultant cardiologist

Jane Flint_WWHDr Flint is a consultant cardiologist and BHF Trustee who has championed the awareness and treatment of women’s heart issues for more than 20 years. On a day to day basis, she oversees a cardiac rehabilitation programme for the Dudley Group of Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust which helps patients recover from heart attacks and surgery.

Her tip for prevention: ‘If you’re 40 or over, you’re entitled to a free heart health assessment with your GP. They’ll check your blood pressure and cholesterol and talk you through how you can improve your heart health.’



Helen David, fundraiser

After losing a loved-one to heart disease Helen, who works as an artist and designer, founded a fundraising event for the BHF to be held every year known as the Tunnel of Love. She now co-chairs the high profile event, which invites celebrities to bid in an auction for items donated by the likes of Damien Hirst, Calvin Klein and Barbour and last year raised over £265,000.

Helen David_WWHHer tip for prevention: ‘Pilates is great for all-round health as is going for a walk if you don’t fancy a run. And try to keep your weight to a healthy BMI.’ Work out your BMI with the NHS calculator.


BHF Professor Barbara Casadei, scientist

Professor Casadei is a heart doctor at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. She also undertakes important research to improve our understanding of atrial fibrillation, the most common heart rhythm disorder in the UK.

Barbara Casadei_WWHHer tip for prevention: ‘Invest in good quality olive oil: it’s good for you and adds a fantastic flavour to just about everything: you won’t need to fry ever again!’


Professor Anna Dominiczak, scientist

Anna Dominiczak_2_WWHProfessor Dominiczak works as Professor of Medicine at Glasgow University and leads a large team of scientists to ensure they get the very best for their heart patients. She also conducts a lot of research into hearth health, including detecting ways patients will respond to drugs in advance to help minimise side-effects.

Her tip for prevention: ‘Quit smoking. It’s the one thing we can all do without.’




Jenny Welstand, heart nurse

Jenny is a heart nurse who oversees medication and treatments for her patients as well as teaching them to monitor and control their own conditions. She meets a variety of patients from those who have been newly diagnosed to those now needing end-of-life care.

Jenny Wesltand 2 WWHHer tip for prevention: ‘You don’t have to hit the gym to keep fit. Doing the housework or the gardening count too, so get stuck in knowing you’re helping your heart as well as keep

The BHF has set up a 24 hour dedicated online hub called the Women’s Room full of information and help for women with heart disease and advice on prevention. It offers women the chance to talk to other women who are going through the same thing in a female-only forum.

Visit the Women’s Room to find out more.

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