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Cardiovascular disease: the gender divide

02 May 2021
8 min read
Volume 32 · Issue 5


Cardiovascular disease is often thought of as a condition that mainly affects men. Beverley Bostock analyses the role practice nurses can play in recognising and managing cardiovascular disease in women

Although cardiovascular disease (CVD) is recognised to be a condition that affects men more than women overall, this risks underplaying the significant challenges relating to the diagnosis and management of CVD in women. Women are adversely affected compared to men in terms of diagnosis, acute management and implementation of secondary prevention, and the evidence base for treating women is lacking, due to the low numbers of women included in trials. Hormonal fluctuations throughout a woman's lifetime can also affect CVD risk. GPNs are ideally placed to consider the challenges of recognising and addressing CVD risk in women and to support them with engaging in reducing their lifetime risk.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is an umbrella term relating to a spectrum of conditions which affect the heart and blood vessels of the body. These vessels include the large vessels supplying the brain, heart and limbs, and the smaller vessels supplying the eyes, kidneys and nerves. Although CVD is recognised to be a condition that affects men more than women overall, this risks underplaying the significant challenges relating to the diagnosis and management of CVD in women.

In this article, we consider the incidence and prevalence of heart disease in women and analyse the role of the general practice nurse (GPN) in recognising and managing cardiovascular conditions in women. By the end of this article readers will be able to:

According to statistics from the British Heart Foundation (BHF) there are 830 000 women in the UK living with coronary heart disease (CHD), and around 380 000 women in the UK have survived a heart attack (BHF, 2021). Coronary heart disease is the single biggest killer of women in the UK and kills more than twice as many women as breast cancer (BHF, 2019a).

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