True or False? Heart disease is the biggest killer of Australian women

Last year I wrote this post, and very quickly heard from heart-attack survivor and patient advocate Carolyn Thomas that compared to men, women don’t do so well in the heart-attack stakes.

Go to Heart Sisters for a look at the North American experience.

I promised Carolyn I would follow my original post with a longer one, and then life intervened.

Nevertheless, women and heart disease are in the news here in Australia. Today I learned that four times as many Aussie women die from heart disease than from breast cancer.                                                                                                                                                                                                           I was startled.

The following article has been kindly provided by the Heart Foundation.

True or false? Heart disease is the biggest killer of Australian women.

The answer is true. In fact heart disease kills four times as many women as breast cancer does – over 11,000 women per year[1]. Recent Heart Foundation research tells us that awareness of this fact is low, with only one in five women[2] knowing heart disease is the leading cause of death.

This research has also highlighted that women are misinformed about heart disease, assuming it only happens to older men and that the signs of disease are obvious.

This year’s Go Red for Women campaign aims to dispel these myths by highlighting the facts that:

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both Australian men and women;
  • Heart disease is not always obvious. Having a heart attack may be the first sign of an underlying condition; and that
  • The risk of heart disease increases in women after menopause, due largely to the loss of the protective influence oestrogen has during a woman’s childbearing years.

The good news is that heart disease is largely preventable.  Women can reduce their risk by maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet, quitting smoking and being physically active.  A regular heart health check with your doctor is also important, especially as you get older.

To increase women’s awareness of heart disease, the Heart Foundation is running its annual Go Red for Women (GRFW) campaign during the month of June.  Tips on nutrition, new recipes, ideas on how to get physically active and personal stories can be accessed through both our website or our free GRFW e-newsletter.

You can join the campaign and encourage your colleagues/network/friends /community group to join the campaign by:

  • Wearing red on Friday 11 June, Go Red for Women day;
  • Attending a Go Red for Women event in your State or Territory ; and
  • Finding out more about women and heart disease by visiting

By spreading this message you’ll join thousands of other Australians in their effort to raise awareness of this important health issue for women.

[1] Australian Bureau of Statistics. Causes of Death (3303.0) 2008. March 2010.

[2] Heart Foundation. Heart Watch. June 2009 (unpublished)


Cautions and Care

This article is provided for your information. If you have a concern about your heart health-or that of another then it’s vital a medical review is conducted. See your GP.


Healing from the natural world, and heart disease

High blood pressure, high levels of ‘bad’ fats in cholesterol, smoking, and unhealthy body weight are some of the major risk factors for heart disease. For many people, simple, sustainable changes in diet and lifestyle, and regular medical care are our very best chance of avoiding heart attack and stroke.

If making lifestyle changes seems too hard to do on your own, you’ll be relieved to know that simple, gentle remedies such as regular massage and acupuncture, meditation, sensible exercise, and  delicious unprocessed food can easily become part of your life.

Margi Macdonald can help you include these simple, pleasurable remedies in your plan for healthy living. As a Registered Nurse, Margi spent several years working in a Cardio-Thoracic Surgical Unit in one of Brisbane’s private hospitals. She understands how important it is for you to receive safe, effective medical and natural therapies for this condition.

2 thoughts on “True or False? Heart disease is the biggest killer of Australian women

Add yours

  1. Hi Margi,
    Thanks so much for posting this very valuable information!

    While women are increasingly aware that heart disease is our #1 killer, as you point out, with only one in five women aware of that reality, we all have a long way to go – no matter where we live.

    And it’s not much better with our doctors! A 2005 survey conducted by the American Heart Association asked physicians if they knew that more women die from heart disease than men each year. Only 8% of family doctors were aware of this fact, but even worse, only 17% of CARDIOLOGISTS knew this! Cardiologists! And this is their business! It is all they do!

    For too many, including many docs, heart disease is still considered to be a man’s problem – despite the distressing stats about women.

    We also know that compared to men, women are under-diagnosed and under-treated even in mid-heart attack. For example, your chances of being sent home (male or female) from Emergency with a misdiagnosis in North America – as I was during my own heart attack – is about 1 in 50 – UNLESS you are a woman under the age of 55, in which case you are seven times more likely to be misdiagnosed and sent home.

    It’s critically important that women know ALL the signs and symptoms of heart attack – and that they immediately seek medical help if they experience them. Your readers might want to check out: “How Does It Really Feel To Have A Heart Attack? Women Survivors Tell Their Stories” at:

    We know that women also wait longer than men to report initial symptoms, which cardiologists believe may contribute to women’s more deadly outcomes.

    Thanks again for raising this issue – and for the link back to my own site. I hope your Mum is doing much better now.

    1. Hi Carolyn
      Thanks for your valuable contributions.
      All readers – men and women – need to know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack – and stroke.
      Thank-you too, for your kind wishes for my Mother.
      I’ve concluded that if you’re female and grey-haired, the chances of being managed well, and in a timely fashion in an ER, are slim.
      Our encounter with the hospital system was a horror story which I documented in an article here about medical negligence.
      My advice to everyone?
      Do EVERYTHING you can to stay healthy!
      Mum is back to normal.
      We worked very hard to see the hospitals involved were accountable.
      The wonderful news is that Mum has been invited to be an opening speaker at national Emergency Medicine conference later this year.

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