Women surpass men in heart disease deaths, UN health agency reports

26 September 2003

Contradicting conventional wisdom, the largest-ever worldwide collaborative study of heart disease has found that women are slightly more likely to die from cardiovascular disease (CVD) than men and that heart attacks and strokes kill twice as many women as all cancers combined, the United Nations health agency said today.

Out of the total 16.5 million CVD deaths annually, 8.6 million are of women, according to the study, the MONICA (MONItoring CArdiovascular disease) Monograph, the result of a major research project conceived in 1979 in which teams from 38 populations in 21 countries studied heart disease, stroke and risk factors from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s.

The report was released by the World Health Organization (WHO) in connection with Sunday’s World Heart Day, whose theme this year – Women, Heart Disease and Stroke – aims to draw urgent attention to the fact that CVD is not just a men's health problem.

“Although most women fear cancer, particularly breast cancer, they do not make the same efforts to safeguard themselves from heart disease, which is eminently preventable," WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health, Catherine Le Galès-Camus, said at today’s launching of the report in Geneva.

"We must strive to make women aware that to keep their hearts healthy, they need to eat smart, kick smoking and move for health,” she added.

Worldwide activities to increase awareness of heart disease in women will be organized on World Heart Day by the World Heart Federation, a non-governmental organization dedicated to the prevention of heart disease and stroke.

Published by WHO, the monograph has been supported by the European Commission, medical charities and industry.


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