Women 'do not fear' heart disease on Merseyside

Image caption,
Doctors warn heart disease can be just as debilitating as cancer

Heart disease is one of the biggest killers of women on Merseyside, yet many do not consider it as big a problem as cancer, health experts say.

A BBC-commissioned study found the life expectancy for women in Liverpool and Halton was 79.2 - a decade less than in Chelsea where they live the longest.

Dr Ewan Wilkinson said surveys show many women wrongly believe heart disease "is a man's illness".

The Experian research looks at age-related issues across England.

Liverpool and Halton come second lowest to Manchester (79.1) in female life expectancy, the study revealed.

"Low life expectancy is something we are very concerned about," Dr Wilkinson, of Liverpool PCT, explained.

"Heart disease, cancer and respiratory disease are too prevalent.

"For a long time women had not thought that heart disease was such a big problem for them.

'Lingering death'

"Some women have said they would rather get heart disease than cancer because they don't want a long lingering death.

"Heart problems can be just as debilitating and it can affect people for a long time."

In a bid to counter the mortality rates, Age UK and other charities have set up special centres for elderly people across Merseyside.

There are a wide range of activities, including ballroom dancing, yoga, Tai Chi, and top-to-toe exercise classes.

Barbara Cook, senior manager of the Active Ageing Centre in Birkenhead, said living in a deprived area was bound to reduce life expectancy.

"I am slightly surprised that Halton's life expectancy is one of the lowest but am not surprised about other parts of Merseyside," she said.

Image caption,
Liveability classes are giving many people over 50 a better quality of life

"Our industrial history (and) the fact we are less affluent than other areas, are significant factors.

"We have hundreds of people aged between 50 and 101 years of age using our services.

"One of the women is 92 and she still comes to exercise classes."

In another area of Merseyside, Shirley Hall, 75, from Woolton has found a new lust for life. She was 18st (114kg) at one stage, increasing the risk of heart disease.

She has been attending Liveability classes in the village and has now lost 8st (50kg).

"I am very forgetful and it's just one of those things that I have to put up with, but the exercise classes have definitely made a difference to me, I really enjoy them," she said.

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