The Irish Heart Foundation has launched a campaign highlighting the dangers of heart disease for women.

It says women are six times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease and stroke than from breast cancer.

The IHS says research has found just one in ten women believe cardiovascular disease is the number one killer.

It says three in four women believe that more men than women die from heart disease, yet CSO figures show as many women as men die from it.

IHF Medical Director Dr Angie Brown, a consultant cardiologist, says: "About one third of all women in Ireland will die from cardiovascular disease, yet many women still view a heart attack as mainly a man's problem.

"Most women are more concerned about breast cancer even though six times as many women die from heart disease and stroke in Ireland each year."

Diabetes increases the risk of heart disease in women more than it does in men.

Women also metabolise nicotine faster than men, so a cigarette will increase a woman's risk a lot more than it will for a man. 

80% of women who have heart attacks under the age of 40 are smokers. The risk of heart attack is reduced by half a year after quitting.

Dr Brown said: "Our goal is to alert women that especially after the menopause, they are at risk of heart attack and stroke, as much as any man. One reason for this is women are protected by their hormones and present with heart problems a few years later than men but after the menopause, a woman's risk of heart disease and stroke catches up with that of a man's.

"Furthermore the signs and symptoms of heart attack may be different for women to those of men. A woman may experience more vague symptoms such as nausea, tiredness, shortness of breath, rather than the more usual crushing pain in the chest. Unfortunately this can mean that women delay in getting to the hospital and therefore lose valuable time for the necessary treatment.

"But the good news is that 80 percent of cardiovascular disease is preventable and a positive lifestyle can alter risk factors for cardiovascular disease."