Traditionally regarded as a male disease, cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the number one killer of women worldwide. It is also a major cause of serious illness and disability, costly to healthcare systems and destroying women’s quality of life. In the EU, CVD remains the number one cause of death for women in each of the twenty-seven EU countries. Only during the last few decades has awareness of how CVD affects women differently to men been raised, helping alert women to the risk.

CVD deaths account for 43% of all deaths in women and 36% of those in men in the EU.

CVD: Why Gender and Age Matters

The risk of CVD in women is still underestimated by society, including women themselves and the medical community. The reason for this is that CVD has been considered a male disease. During their fertile years, women are protected by their hormones against CVD, but lose this protection once they enter menopause. Women are getting CVD about 10 years later than men. Interlinked are other risk factors such as a rise in hypertension and cholesterol level, which also increase in women over the age of 45

Obesity, another major CVD risk factor, more prevalent in men under the age of 45, is increasing with advancing years in women. Thus, while younger women have a lower prevalence of CVD compared to men, this gap narrows and even reverses in older women. Across the EU, there are wide disparities in CVD.

- (full) Report: Women and Cardiovascular Disease in the EU

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Last modified on March 4 2013.