Heart disease kills twice as many women annually as breast cancer

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However, a survey of 2,000 women revealed women are twice as likely to see breast cancer (86 percent) as a health concern compared to heart disease (43 percent). And 84 percent weren’t aware heart disease was such a big killer of women.

It also emerged 62 percent didn’t know the symptoms of heart problems are different in women to men, suggesting a significant gap between perception and reality when it comes to how heart disease can affect women.

Just one in five women thinks poor diet is a key factor in developing heart-related illnesses.

Overall, 82 percent of women said there was not enough awareness of how heart disease can affect them.

The research was carried out by California Almonds, which has teamed up with Dr Alex George to highlight the importance of a heart-smart diet.

Dr George said: “By making just a few small changes, you can have a big impact on reducing your risk and protecting your heart.

“Diet is the easiest place to start, incorporating heart-smart foods, like almonds, can help to reduce the risk of developing some heart-related illnesses.

“Understanding what’s in our foods is fundamental to knowing what is good, and what we should be eating less of.

“Replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats contributes to the maintenance of normal blood cholesterol levels, helping keep our hearts healthy.

“Almonds, for example, are packed with healthy unsaturated fats, and have been found to significantly reduce ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol which can build up inside our blood vessels, while having no significant impact on ‘good’ HDL cholesterol levels, which helps to remove LDL cholesterol from the body.”

The study found more than half of women have absolutely no concerns at all about heart health being something that could affect them in the future

As many as 83 percent of women said they are unlikely to suffer from heart disease – because they don’t smoke, exercise regularly and are not overweight.

And just a third understand the disease to be something which is hereditary – when in fact a genetic or inherited condition can mean you could suffer heart problems despite appearing perfectly healthy.

The research, carried out via OnePoll for California Almonds, revealed fats are another point of confusion for many.

Six in 10 women were unsure of the difference between good and bad fat, despite more than half agreeing that good fats are important to look for in foods to reduce the risk of a heart related illness.

Cholesterol is also an area of uncertainty, with 47 percent unaware that high LDL cholesterol levels can increase the risk of a heart condition.

Dr George added: “The heart is the most important muscle we have, so keeping it healthy and strong is crucial.

“These new findings highlight the work that needs doing to bring women up to speed on the risks they face, and preventative measures they can take.

“Ultimately the decisions we make each day can have a really positive impact on our health and wellbeing.”

“No one is perfect and there is no such thing as a perfect diet, it’s about integrating these healthy choices in a way that suits our individual lifestyles.

“There are so many small and easy changes, so make healthy choices in a way that suit you.” 

Top tips for how women can protect their heart

A heart-smart start to the day: Incorporating more foods low in saturated fat and high in unsaturated fats can reduce the levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood. Try adding a 30g handful of almonds into your daily routine. Almonds contain the fatty acid linoleic acid which contributes to the maintenance of normal blood cholesterol levels.

Get your heart going: Incorporating exercise into your daily routine such as walking or running can get your body working, raising your heart rate up and increasing your breathing, strengthening your cardiovascular system.

Drinking water: Not only is drinking plenty of water good for your body but it’s also fundamental for the heart.

Sleep is King: Poor sleep can contribute to high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity so it’s vital you get in at least eight hours of sleep a day.

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