Women with heart disease are more likely to be poor than men

TORONTO, Jan. 18 /CNW/ - A study funded by Echo: Improving Women's Health in Ontario, an agency of the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term-Care, shows that women in Ontario tend to be more at risk for certain factors that contribute to cardiovascular disease than men.

The study showed that 48 per cent of people living with heart disease, or the effects of a stroke, had a secondary education or less and 37 per cent were living in lower-income households. The data also showed that, after adjusting for age, both of these socioeconomic risk factors were more common in women than in men with 46 per cent of women with cardiovascular disease living in lower-income households versus 31 per cent of men.

The study also found that women living with cardiovascular disease consistently reported worse health-related quality of life and much higher rates of disability than men. Modifiable risk factors, including poor diet, smoking, physical inactivity, and being overweight or obese, contribute to these outcomes. Two thirds of women with cardiovascular disease were physically inactive, over half were overweight or obese and one in seven smoked.

"The results of poverty often include lack of access to healthy foods, and little time for exercise. Low income women are also more likely to smoke. These are all contributing factors when it comes to chronic diseases such as heart disease," said Campbell. "Further, women tend to spend what little time and money they do have on taking care of those around them, often putting themselves at the bottom of the list."

"Cardiovascular disease is the major cause of death and a leading cause of disability among Canadian women," said Dr. Arlene Bierman, a physician at St. Michael's Hospital and principal investigator of the study. "In fact, eight times as many Canadian women die from heart disease and stroke every year as from breast cancer. If we're going to change this we need prevention programs that reach out to low income women and that focus on the effects of poverty and the factors that lead to poverty among women."

"We tend to think of heart disease as a men's health issue, but its incidence in women is growing at an alarming rate. Today, in Ontario, the number of deaths from cardiovascular disease is virtually the same for women and men," said Campbell. "Women need to be aware of the warning signs, take the steps they can to keep their hearts healthy, and promptly seek advice when they do have a problem. Our communities and governments must continue to address the inequities in our society that result in many women living in poverty in Ontario."

Campbell notes that people should take common sense steps to significantly reduce their risk of chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease:

    -   Live smoke-free
    -   Eat well to stay well
    -   Make physical activity a part of your life
    -   Know your blood pressure
    -   Relax and enjoy life

Ontarians can also learn more about improving their health and quality of life through healthy eating at Eat Right Ontario (www.eatrightontario.ca).

The cardiovascular study is the latest chapter in The Project for an Ontario Women's Health Evidence-Based Report (POWER). Funded by Echo, its goal is to report on the overall health of women in Ontario, their access to health care services, and the differences between men and women and between various groups of women. The work is conducted under a partnership between the Keenan Research Centre in the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael's Hospital and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES), in Toronto.

Previous chapters in the POWER Study have included The Burden of Illness, Cancer, and Depression. Further chapters scheduled for publication in 2010, include Access to Health Services, Musculoskeletal Disease, Reproductive Health, Diabetes and HIV. Visit www.powerstudy.ca for more information.

About Echo - Echo's mandate is to be the focal point and catalyst for women's health at the provincial level. Echo promotes equity and improved health for women by working in collaborative partnerships with the health system, communities, researchers and policy-makers.


For further information: For further information: Julie McFayden, Public Affairs and Community Engagement Officer, (416) 597-9687 ext. 232, jmcfayden@echo-ontario.ca or John Ecker, Director, Public Affairs and Community Engagement, (416) 597-9687 ext. 223, jecker@echo-ontario.ca

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