Ischaemic is a form of heart disease in which oxygen is prevented from getting to the heart muscle by hardened arteries.

The age-standardised mortality rate (that's rates per 100,000 standardised for age according to World Health Organisation guidelines) shows that men's mortality rates from ischaemic heart disease were almost double that of women until 2001. Since then the gap has narrowed, until by 2008 the difference had fallen to 88 percent.

Not just a male problem

Dr Norman Sharpe, Medical Director of the New Zealand Heart Foundation, explains that heart-disease death rates for both sexes have declined 70 percent since the 1960s.

Long perceived as a "male" health problem, it's also a leading killer of women in most Western countries. In New Zealand, heart disease kills more women each year than any single form of cancer. And yet Heart Foundation research has found three-quarters of women are unaware of this.

Women tend to present with heart disease problems 10 to 15 years later than men and their symptoms are harder to diagnose. And Dr Sharpe says, "factors in heart disease are a complex mix of social and economic factors – and inequality. And gender is often an inequality."

This is why the Heart Foundation has launched Go Red for Women, a campaign designed to raise women's awareness of their heart disease risk (see www.heartfoundation.org.nz for more information).

Ischaemic heart disease rates graph


 

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