An informal survey published today by the World Heart Federation reveals a significant number of women in the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Sweden are unaware of the dangers of cardiovascular diseases and mistake cancer as the leading cause of health-related deaths among European women.
A vast majority of women in the UK, slightly more than half of women in France and slightly under half of women in Sweden and Germany said they were unaware cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), including heart disease and stroke, affect nearly one third of European women, according to the Geneva-based advocacy group.
The survey, conducted between April 19 and April 24, interviewed more than 4,000 women aged 18 to 64 across the four countries. It found that British women were the least informed among their European counterparts.
Two thirds of women in the UK said they were unaware that heart disease and stroke cause the leading number of female deaths on the continent with nearly half of women polled saying they thought most women die of cancer.
In France, 53 percent of women polled said they were unaware of the dangers cardiovascular diseases pose to women, while in Sweden, 52 percent of polled women said they knew about the risks of CVDs.
At 54 percent, German women were the most informed about CVDs, but slightly more than one third of women said they thought cancer posed the most significant health threat.
The heart foundation said it conducted the survey to encourage European women to help buck a rising global trend of CVDs among women.
Sangeeta Bhagat, a World Health Federation spokeswoman, said nearly 18 million people died world-wide from CVDs in 2015 and, among that number, nearly 4 million came from Europe.
The global number of deaths to CVDs is predicted to rise to 23 million by 2030, Bhagat said.
According to the Heart Federation, nearly 81 percent of women polled in the survey said they want to be more active, but many aren’t because they say they are too embarrassed by how unfit they are to start exercising.
Nearly half of women polled said they find gyms intimidating and more than a third of women said they don’t like how they physically look when exerting themselves.
Exercising can reduce the health risks posed by CVDs by up to 30 percent, but the World Heart Federation says three quarters of women across the four countries do less physical activity than is recommended by the World Health Organization.
The World Heart Federation said it is using the findings of its survey to launch a social media, campaign in partnership with UEFA, the Dutch Heart Foundation and the Dutch football association, to encourage women to exercise 30 minutes a day five days a week.
For 28 days starting June 19, participants sharing their exercise routines on social media will be eligible for winning football-themed prises including tickets to the women’s EURO 2017 final in the Netherlands.
“It’s not about striving to achieve a high level of athleticism or an unrealistic body shape,” Bhagat said of health challenge. “It’s about recognizing that even with our busy lives, we can all make a healthy heart our goal. It’s about making small changes that will see us fit and healthy and there for our loved ones – for the long term.”