Smorgasbord Health Column – Women’s Health Month – Cardiovascular Disease – Heart Attacks and Strokes by Sally Cronin

Having spent time on some of the more common health issues we might suffer from, over the next few weeks, I am going to focus first on women’s health first posted in 2015 and a number of times since as I consider it to be an important issue.. It will be followed by men’s health.

Apart from looking at specific problems faced by women, I will also be sharing some guest posts from writers who have experienced health issues associated with the reproductive system or have worked with the medical field associated with women’s health.

These systems generally conform to a set pattern of development, however there are times when nature has its own agenda, resulting in changes that we are now embracing more fully. I am going to begin with the female reproductive system, how it works and links to posts that I have written on related diseases such as breast cancer.

This series is not just for women or men specifically, but also their partners.

Understanding how your own body works is important.. but it is also important for the men and women in our lives understand how our bodies work too. Very often in a relationship it is our partner who notices changes to our bodies or our behaviour that can indicate a health problem.

Women’s Health Month – Cardiovascular Disease – Heart Attacks and Strokes

Most of us dread hearing C for cancer but we should really be concerned about C for cardiovascular disease. The signs can be subtle and it is only when there is a catastrophic event that a condition might come to light. Understanding how your body works and keeping an eye out for abnormal tiredness, breathlessness and unusual heart rhythms is very important.

Key Indicators.

In the western world we can  have key indicators such as blood pressure, blood sugar and elevated unhealthy cholesterol levels checked regularly.

Some facts about this silent killer.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) – heart disease and stroke – is the biggest killer of women globally, killing more women than all cancers, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria combined.

  • Heart disease and stroke cause approx 8.6 million deaths among women annually, a third of all deaths in women worldwide. Of this:
  • 3.4 million women die of ischemic heart disease
  • 3 million women die from stroke each year
  • Remainder 2.2 million women die primarily of rheumatic heart disease, hypertensive heart disease, and inflammatory heart disease
  • Not just a male disease
  • Women in low- and middle-income countries fare worse than men, experiencing a higher proportion of CVD deaths than men
  • Women with diabetes have higher CVD mortality rates than men with diabetes
  • Younger women who have a heart attack have higher mortality than men of the same age
  • Women are more likely than men to become more disabled by stroke
  • Immediately following stroke, women are more likely to experience serious problems compared to men
  • However, women are less likely to be prescribed aspirin in prevention of a second attack, less likely to receive sophisticated pacemaker models and less likely to be recommended for potentially life-saving cardiac surgery

Under-recognition of the risk

  • Women do not perceive CVD as the greatest threat to their health.
  • Young women still feel more threatened by cancer than they do by CVD

Risk Factors

Risk factors for heart disease and stroke are largely similar for men and women.

    • Factors such as age and family history play a role, but it is estimated that the majority of CVD deaths are due to modifiable risk factors such as smoking, high cholesterol, unhealthy diet, high blood pressure, obesity, or diabetes
    • A woman who is obese, even if physically active, increases her risk of coronary heart disease by 2.48 times, compared to a woman of normal weight
    • Women who engage in physical activity for less than an hour per week have 1.48 times the risk of developing coronary heart disease, compared to women who do more than three hours of physical activity per week
    • Women who smoke double the risk of stroke. The more cigarettes smoked, the higher the risk
    • Exposure to second-hand smoke increases the risk of dying from heart disease by 15 per cent in women

Women with high blood pressure have 3.5 times the risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD) compared to women with normal blood pressure.

Ideal Blood Pressure for your age.


Symptoms of a heart attack differ between men and women and here is what to be concerned about.

These six heart attack symptoms are common in women:

  • Chest pain or discomfort. Chest pain is the most common heart attack symptom, but some women may experience it differently than men. …
  • Pain in your arm(s), back, neck, or jaw. …
  • Stomach pain. …
  • Shortness of breath, nausea, or lightheadedness. …
  • Sweating. …
  • Fatigue.

It is also important to recognise the symptoms of a stroke in yourself or in others.

If any of these five symptoms appear suddenly, you may be having a stroke:

  • numbness or weakness of the arm, face, or leg, especially on just one side of the body.
  • confusion, trouble speaking, or understanding speech.
  • trouble seeing in one eye or both.
  • trouble walking, loss of balance, lack of coordination or dizziness.
  • Unable to raise arms above your head.

In both cases call Emergency services immediately or get someone you are with to do so.

Both of these outcomes can be avoided by regular checks for the Key Indicators. It is important to remember that whilst there is medication to regulate blood pressure, it is not an inevitability to be on prescribed medication for life. We bear a great deal of the responsibility for our health and managing blood pressure and blood sugar levels at health levels is possible with diet and exercise.

Please do not stop taking any prescribed medication without consultation with your doctor.

I have written two posts on blood pressure and some of the ways you can reduce high blood pressure naturally. Salt in the diet has long been cited as the cause of high blood pressure but as you will see in the first post it is far more complex and we actually need salt in out diet. This does not mean eating industrially manufactured foods but using salt in cooking and seasoning that is the right naturally occurring variety.

Blood Pressure and the #Salt debate by Sally Cronin

Blood Pressure – Part Two – Nitrate and Potassium foods and wholegrains -Get your blood flowing by Sally Cronin

©Sally Cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2021

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-three years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines, radio programmes and posts here on Smorgasbord.

If you would like to browse my health books and fiction you can find them here::Sally’s books and reviews


Thanks for visiting and I am always delighted to receive your feedback.. stay safe Sally.

31 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Health Column – Women’s Health Month – Cardiovascular Disease – Heart Attacks and Strokes by Sally Cronin

  1. A valuable post, Sally. Recently I read that sugar is another thing that increases blood pressure. The article said it could be even worse than salt.
    At my doctor’s surgery, they seem to have raised the blood pressure levels for safe levels. My neighbour measured hers at 180/ 80. She phoned the surgery and was told that it wasn’t a problem. (She did speak to a doctor and it was he who told her that it wasn’t a concern.) Another doctor at the surgery said that it was OK at 150/? And my husband was told 200 for the systolic was the worrying level.
    That was 3 doctors at my surgery who are saying that there’s not problem for blood pressure levels well above the recommended. That’s worrying.
    Of course, this blasted pandemic has cut surgery visits. Now we get telephone consultations, where they obviously can’t take the blood pressure. I’ve not had mine taken by the surgery for well over a year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Our blood pressure does change as we get older and for example mine is 130/80 unless I am confronted by a white coat in which case all bets are off.. I am surprised at the 150 and certainly 200 systolic mark and whilst I would not dare contradict a doctor… I think keeping within the 130/139 systolic and 80/90 diastolic is a recommended range. We have always had BP measuring devices for home use and they are readily available I have a upper arm cuff machine which I bought when looking after my mother and it is more accurate in my opinion than the wrist devices.. this one is only 19.99 on Amazon UK and with the lack of face to face visits I think it is a useful measurement to have to hand. Reducing blood pressure is actually quite straightforward but you do need to know where you are…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for writing this crucial post about heart attacks and strokes. One of my most significant motivating factors when I committed to getting healthy, was this very thing. I want to be around when I have grandkids. On days when I don’t feel like exercising, this is the carrot that motivates me.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This is a very useful and informative post, Sally. I shouldn’t be high risk at all based on the risk factors listed here. I don’t smoke, I’m not overweight, and I do exercise about 30 minutes a day. You haven’t mentioned the impact of stress here though.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Smorgasbord Health Column – Women’s Health Month – Cardiovascular Disease – Heart Attacks and Strokes by Sally Cronin | Retired? No one told me!

  5. Timely post, Sally. I’m smiling because I just finished dancing through an hour of Zumba and said to my guy “this is either going to keep me young, or make me old fast.” 🙂 Joking, of course, but the importance of exercise and heart health should be understood by all of us. Thus, tomorrow – a 90-minute walk! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Weekly Round Up – 26th September – 2nd October 2021 – Autumn, James Bond, Donna Summer, Podcast, Book reviews, Stories, Health and Humour | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

  7. My mother suffered one, and although I’m sure she’d been suffering from angina for a while, the doctor kept putting it down to “anxiety”. Thankfully, she is still here to tell the tale, but yes, it does go under recognised in women.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: Smorgasbord Health Column – Women’s Health – The Heart and Stress by Sally Cronin | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

I would be delighted to receive your feedback (by commenting, you agree to Wordpress collecting your name, email address and URL) Thanks Sally

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