The broadcaster is an ambassador for the Irish Heart Foundation’s ‘Her Heart Matters’ campaign, running throughout September
The statistics on women’s heart health make for shocking reading. Last year, 4,656 women died from cardiovascular disease – this accounts for over a quarter of all female deaths and is almost six times higher than the number of women who died from breast cancer in the same timeframe.
Wrongly seen as a ‘male disease’, experts say that heart disease in women has been grossly under-researched, under-diagnosed and under-treated.
Maura Derrane is urging women to be aware of the risk of heart disease and stroke and to find the time to prioritise their cardiovascular health. She also wants women across Ireland to register for the online ‘Her Heart Matters: What Every Woman Needs to Know’ webinar on World Heart Day on 29 September at 12.30pm.
The 53-year-old is an ambassador for the Irish Heart Foundation’s ‘Her Heart Matters’ campaign, which encourages everyone to talk to the women in their life about heart health, share the message and tips with them and empower them to make small, sustainable lifestyle changes.
“We always feel we have to push the men in our lives to go and see a doctor, as men are more reluctant to seek medical advice if they’re not feeling well,” said the RTÉ Today Show host, who manages her own high cholesterol levels.
“But we often ignore our own symptoms, as we are so busy organising others. Women don’t prioritise themselves – they put everyone else first. It’s so important for women to make these changes.”
What can you do to reduce your risk of heart disease?
Cardiac risk factors can be lessened by introducing physical activity into daily routines, managing stress, introducing Mediterranean-style dietary changes, having blood pressure and cholesterol checked, quitting smoking and reducing alcohol intake.
Ms Derrane, an avid walker and cyclist, said women entering middle age and menopause are at greater risk.
“Get involved. Be aware of your heart health – get the checks done – blood pressure and cholesterol and make time for yourself,” she said. “You don’t have to be a member of a club or gym; just get outdoors and do something you enjoy to get your heart rate up. Thirty minutes, five days a week is enough.”
The impact of menopause
From the age of 40, women are more exposed to heart disease because menopause causes a severe drop in oestrogen levels, which, in turn, generates higher levels of LDL or bad cholesterol. Smoking also increases their risk of heart attack at twice the rate of men.
“Women’s heart attack symptoms can be different too, ranging from back pain, indigestion, and not always the classic ‘clutching of the chest’ scenario,” said Janis Morrissey, Director of Health Promotion with the Irish Heart Foundation.
“We really need them to take stock and become self-advocates, listen to your own body, know when something doesn’t feel right and introduce small changes which will leave you less exposed to dangerous cardiovascular events.”
The role of self-care
As part of the campaign, the Irish Heart Foundation has developed a range of resources such as a Self-Care and Wellbeing Journal and 28-day plan to support women to protect their heart.
The “Her Heart Matters” campaign is supported by the HSE, Health & Wellbeing as part of their delivery of Healthy Ireland, the national framework to support health and wellbeing. For information and practical tips on how to look after your heart health, visit irishheart.ie.