Health & Fitness

I’m a dietitian and here’s five silent killer mistakes women make – and how to fix them

IRISH women have been urged to prioritise their heart health, after thousands of women passed away due to cardiovascular disease.

Statistics show that there is a need for greater awareness around the subject, with the disease claiming the lives of 4,656 women across the country.

Statistics show that there is a need for greater awareness around cardiovascular disease in women
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It is often assumed that heart disease is predominantly a male problem, but that’s not the case, says Irish Heart Foundation dietitian, Orna O’Brien. Pic: Justin Farrelly.
Irish Heart Foundation dietitian, Orna O’Brien
Justin Farrelly

The shock numbers mean cardiovascular disease (CVD) accounts for a whopping 27 per cent of all female death.

The Irish Heart Foundation is urging women in Ireland to prioritise their heart health as part of its ‘Her Heart Matters’ campaign.

CVD includes all diseases of the heart and circulation but most commonly it refers to coronary heart disease such as angina and a  heart attack, strokes and other blood vessel diseases.

Other conditions include congenital heart disease, heart valve disease and disease of the heart muscle, which is known as cardiomyopathy.

The national charity’s senior dietitian, Orna O’Brien, has outlined the five common heart health mistakes women make.

And she has laid out the simple ways to correct them.

First, she urged women to stop presuming the common disease is just a men’s problem, insisting women over 30 should have their blood pressure and cholesterol checked every five years.

She said: “Despite the misconception, one in four women in Ireland dies from heart disease and stroke, surpassing breast cancer deaths sixfold. Why?

“Heart disease in women has been historically under-recognised, under-treated and under-researched.

“Specific risk factors such as smoking and high blood pressure can be deadlier for women, who also have specific pregnancy and menopause-related risk factors.

“It’s essential for women to educate themselves about heart health.”

O’Brien also said women should stop overlooking heart attack symptoms, pointing out that they can be less vague than a man’s.

She said: “Women tend to be less aware of heart attack symptoms than men as their symptoms can be more vague.

“Consequently, women might delay seeking help or not call emergency services for themselves, which can impact their chances of survival.

“If a woman suspects a heart attack, she should call 112 or 999 immediately and go to the nearest Emergency Department.”


SOME 80 per cent of premature heart disease and strokes are preventable by managing modifiable risk factors.

  • If you smoke, try to stop.
  • Limit alcohol to no more than 11 standard drinks per week.
  • Follow a Mediterranean-style diet.
  • See for stress-free heart-healthy recipes.
  • Mind your mental health by reducing screentime, maintaining a regular sleep routine, spending time in nature, engaging with relaxation techniques, and staying connected with friends and family.
  • Incorporate more movement into daily life and include muscle-strengthening activities at least twice a week.

For practical strategies to take charge of their heart health, women can visit and download the Irish Heart Foundation’s free Self-care and Wellbeing Journal.

The dietician also highlighted that heart disease is not just a concern for older adults, which is a common misconception.

She explained: “Many women are unaware that hormonal protection shields them from heart disease and stroke until after menopause.

“However, heart disease risk factors can begin in childhood, highlighting the importance of proactively reducing cardiovascular risk no matter what stage of life a woman is at.”

O’Brien told how women should not jump into any lifestyle changes without the right mindset.

She said: “Most women already know what makes a healthy lifestyle, but the many demands of modern life can get in the way.

“The Irish Heart Foundation offers a free Self-care and Wellbeing Journal, designed to help women identify areas they would benefit most from focusing on, understand their habits, and set realistic goals.”

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Source of data and images: thesun

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