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On Matters of the Heart, Women Aged 40-plus Naive When It Comes to Risks

~ Still considered a "man's disease," women face major disconnect between concern about heart disease, high cholesterol and efforts to monitor and control it ~

OTTAWA, June 3 /CNW/ - Heart disease is the number one killer of women in this country,(1) but a new survey from the Federation of Medical Women of Canada (FMWC) reveals that many Canadian women still possess little knowledge about their own risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including their personal cholesterol target levels, and appear not to be taking the time to address these risk factors.
Results from the LIPitor: Women'S InsighTs Into Cholesterol Knowledge (LIPSTICK) survey, conducted by Leger Marketing, reveal that while nearly all Canadian women aged 40-plus (94 per cent) say that having healthy cholesterol levels are important to them, the reality is that cholesterol is not top-of-mind. According to LIPSTICK, nearly half of women surveyed (46 per cent) spend the most time thinking about their weight, versus only five per cent who think about their cholesterol levels. In fact, only one-in-ten women surveyed knew their personal LDL ("bad" cholesterol) levels, versus the more than six-in-ten women (64 per cent) who know how much they weighed in high school.
LIPSTICK further revealed that four-in-ten women aged 40-plus have not had their cholesterol checked in the past year, despite the risk of elevated cholesterol and heart disease increasing with age. Moreover, although three-in-ten Canadian women surveyed have been diagnosed with high cholesterol, one-in-six of those do not get their cholesterol levels checked on a yearly basis.
"Knowing all your vascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, lack of exercise, high cholesterol, obesity and smoking, is a very important step in the prevention of heart disease," says Dr. Nahid Azad, Associate Professor, University of Ottawa and a member of the Federation of Medical Women of Canada (FMWC). "The good news is it is never too late to take action. Women need to work with their physician to identify their personal risk, and steps they can take to reduce their chances of cardiovascular disease, through diet and lifestyle changes, and medication if necessary."


Shockingly enough, more than half of Canadian women surveyed are unaware of the fact that more women than men die of heart disease every year. Heart disease and stroke kill one-third of women, and women are more likely than men to die of a heart attack or stroke.(2)
Although the odds are against them, LIPSTICK reveals few women acknowledge their personal risk for heart disease. More than one-third of Canadian women surveyed (37 per cent) may underestimate their own risk for heart disease, believing they are "not at risk" for developing heart disease, or only to a "very small extent," while most women fail to make the connection between risk factors, such as high cholesterol, and their personal chance of developing heart disease. The reality is that an alarming 80 per cent of Canadian women surveyed report having two or more risk factors - such as age, diabetes, high cholesterol and/or high blood pressure - which puts them at an increased risk for heart attack and stroke.

"Heart disease is not just a man's disease - the truth is more women than men face the threat of a heart attack or stroke," says Dr. Azad.
"Traditionally women have put the needs of their family ahead of their own; however, when it comes to their health, women need to start making themselves a priority. LIPSTICK reinforces the need for Canadian women to start taking heart disease personally."


Perhaps what is of most concern is women who have been diagnosed with high cholesterol are not doing enough to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease. LIPSTICK reveals that 15 per cent of Canadian women diagnosed with high cholesterol are not exercising in an effort to improve their overall health and reduce their cholesterol levels and subsequent risk for cardiovascular disease. For the majority, the reason for not exercising is simply a lack of motivation.
"My father passed away from a massive heart attack and this was a huge wake up call for me to go to my doctor to find out my own risk for heart disease," says Rita Cascagnette, aged 43. "After my doctor diagnosed me with high cholesterol, I started to pay more attention to my own health. I now exercise regularly, watch what I eat and help manage my high cholesterol with a statin."


LIPSTICK was conducted to determine the level of cardiovascular knowledge held by Canadian women, as well as awareness of risk factors, including high cholesterol. LIPSTICK explored women's perceptions and understanding of heart disease to improve management of high cholesterol.

A total of 2,000 Canadian women aged 40-plus answered an on-line survey. Results of a sample this size comprised of Canadians can be considered accurate to +/- 2.2 per cent, 19 times out of 20. LIPSTICK was undertaken in consultation with the Federation of Medical Women of Canada and conducted by Leger Marketing. LIPSTICK was supported by an unrestricted educational grant from Pfizer Canada Inc.


The Federation of Medical Women of Canada (FMWC) is a national organization committed to the professional, social and personal advancement of women physicians and to the promotion of the well-being of women both in the medical profession and in society at large. Since its formation in 1924, the FMWC has acted as a guardian for women physicians and medical students, giving loans, mentoring and networking opportunities, and acting as an advocate for women physicians and women's health in society.
Most of the women physician leaders in Canada have received their training and support through membership in FMWC, which is an independent national member of the Medical Women's International Association.


Pfizer Canada Inc. is the Canadian operation of Pfizer Inc., the world's leading pharmaceutical company. Pfizer discovers, develops, manufactures and markets prescription medicines for humans and animals. Pfizer's ongoing research and development activities focus on a wide range of therapeutic areas following our guiding aspiration: working for a healthier world. For more information, visit

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     (2) Investing in Canada's Future 2003-2004, Canadian Institutes of Health
Research (CIHR), 2004.



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Posted: June 2008