Maura Derrane has urged women to protect their heart health this Heart Month

By Leanne Dempsey Heart News   |   5th Sep 2023

Maura Derrane has urged women to protect their heart health – and confront stark statistics which show a quarter of females in Ireland die from heart disease and stroke.

The broadcaster, 53, insists women need to find the time to prioritise their cardiovascular health.

She is an ambassador for the Irish Heart Foundation’s ‘Her Heart Matters’ campaign, which aims to increase awareness of the risk of heart disease and stroke in women and to start a national conversation about women’s heart health.

The campaign encourages everyone to talk to the women in their life about heart health, share the message and tips with them, and empower them to make small, sustainable lifestyle changes for the good of their heart health.

“We always feel we have to push the men in our lives to go and see a doctor, as men are more reluctant to seek medical advice if they’re not feeling well. But we often ignore our own symptoms, as we are so busy organising others.”

Maura Derrane, who manages her own high cholesterol levels.

“Women don’t prioritise themselves – they put everyone else first. It’s so important for women to make these changes” she said.

Data from 2022 shows that 4,656 women died from cardiovascular disease – 27% of all female deaths and almost six times the number of women who died from breast cancer in that year.

Experts say that for too long, heart disease in women has been grossly under-researched, under-diagnosed, and under-treated as it was wrongly seen as a ‘male disease’.

Cardiac risk factors can be lessened by introducing physical activity into daily routines, managing stress, introducing Mediterranean-style dietary changes, having blood pressure and cholesterol checked, quitting smoking, and reducing alcohol intake.

Ms Derrane, an avid walker and cyclist, said women entering middle age and menopause are at greater risk.

“Get involved. Be aware of your heart health – get the checks done – blood pressure and cholesterol and make time for yourself,” she said.

“You don’t have to be a member of a club or gym; just get outdoors and do something you enjoy to get your heart rate up. Thirty minutes, five days a week is enough.”

From age 40, women are more exposed to heart disease because menopause causes a severe drop in oestrogen levels, which, in turn, generates higher levels of LDL or bad cholesterol. Smoking also increases their risk of heart attack at twice the rate of men.

“Women’s heart attack symptoms can be different too, ranging from back pain, indigestion, and not always the classic ‘clutching of the chest’ scenario.”

Janis Morrissey, Director of Health Promotion, Irish Heart Foundation

“Previous research has shown that there are huge demands on women’s time and many find it hard to focus on their health.

“We really need them to take stock and become self-advocates, listen to your own body, know when something doesn’t feel right and introduce small changes which will leave you less exposed to dangerous cardiovascular events.”

As part of the campaign the Irish Heart Foundation has developed a range of resources such as a Self-care and Wellbeing Journal and 28-day plan to support women to protect their heart.

The ‘Her Heart Matters’ campaign is supported by the HSE, Health & Wellbeing as part of their delivery of Healthy Ireland, the national framework to support health and wellbeing in Ireland.

Sarah O’Brien, HSE, National Lead: Healthy Eating & Active Living Programme, Health & Wellbeing, said: “Creating awareness and helping women to make informed and sustainable healthier lifestyle changes will assist in reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke. Making gradual changes today can lead to bigger health benefits into the future.”

The campaign is also supported by Marks and Spencer. Speaking about the launch of the campaign, Frances Gordon, Head of Marketing and Sales at M&S, commented: “At Marks & Spencer, people are at the heart of everything we do, we’re delighted to support the Irish Heart Foundation in their vital work across the country. In particular, the Foundations’ Her Heart Matters campaign and these stark new statistics highlight the need for women to be aware of heart health and the small, sustainable changes that can be made to improve heart health. With our presence across Ireland, we want to support the campaign by spreading this message with our store colleagues, customers and communities as a whole, and raise money to support the work of the Irish Heart Foundation in protecting women’s health.”

For information and practical tips on how to look after your heart health, visit: irishheart.ie.

#HerHeartMatters

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