Women across Europe unaware of heart health risk

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TWO thirds of British women are unaware that heart disease and stroke are the number one cause of female death, affecting one in three women in Europe, according to new research released this week.

Only one third (34 per cent) of British women know that cardiovascular disease (CVD) posed the highest risk, nearly half of women questioned (49 per cent) wrongly feel that cancer is the biggest threat. Others cite respiratory diseases, diseases of the nervous system or traffic accidents as the most likely cause.

Compared to their European counterparts, German women had the highest level of awareness of the issue (54 per cent), with British women the least aware (34 per cent), according to a survey amongst British, French, German and Swedish women, conducted on behalf of the World Heart Federation (WHF).

Awareness is lowest amongst the younger generation of European women, with only one in three (33 per cent) 18-24 year olds across the four countries naming CVD as the biggest killer, compared to 54 per cent of 45-54 year olds.

Whilst awareness is important, taking action on heart health is vital. Physical activity is a key way of helping to keep your heart healthy, but the research found that three quarters of women in the four countries are doing less than the World Health Organization’s recommended levels of activity. One in ten of those questioned admitted that they do not spend any time at all doing moderate exercise (brisk walking, gardening, dancing etc.) in an average week.

To help reverse this trend, in the run up to this summer’s UEFA Women’s EURO in The Netherlands, women across Europe are being encouraged to join the #MatchFitWoman 28-day challenge: improving their heart health by setting goals to get active for 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

The challenge and research are part of A Healthy Heart Your Goal, a joint campaign by WHF, UEFA, The Dutch Heart Foundation, the Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB) and the Healthy Stadia network, which aims to raise awareness of heart health and encourage women and children to be more physically active.

Sangeeta Bhagat, World Heart Federation said: ‘Every woman can be match fit. Being a #MatchFitWoman is not about being ‘Beach Body Ready’. It’s about recognising that even with our busy lives, we can all make a healthy heart our goal and make small changes that will keep us fit and healthy, there for our loved ones – for the long term.’

World Health Organization’s Global Recommendations on Physical Activity for Health are: adults between 18 – 64 should do 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous physical exercise per week.

It’s clear women want to do more exercise – 72 per cent of women questioned across the four countries would like to be more active, rising to 81 per cent when it comes to 18-24 year olds. But what’s holding them back? Key barriers to exercise for the women questioned include: embarrassment about their lack of fitness (31 per cent), being too busy (42 per cent) and worries about the cost of exercise (36 per cent).

Peter Gillieron, Chairman of the UEFA Fair Play and Social Responsibility Committee said: ‘We can all look after our hearts by making exercise a part of our daily life. Playing football is a fun way of getting together with friends or meeting new people, and importantly, you don’t need an expensive venue or kit – having a kick about in the local park is looking after your heart just as much as playing in an European final.’

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