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A Woman’s Heart


A Woman’s Heart

Tracy Stevens, M.D.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women, killing more women than all cancers combined. A woman dies every minute in our country from heart disease. Women are more likely to die from their first heart attack than men, and 60% percent of sudden cardiac death occurs with the absence of preceding warning symptoms.

Women can take important steps to reduce their risk of developing heart disease or suffering a heart attack. Take ownership of your risk factors for heart disease, and reduce your risk by more than 85%. Important risk factors include:

Sedentary lifestyle – let’s get active.
Smoking cessation – if you smoke, get help to quit; if you don’t smoke, don’t start.
Obesity – control your weight through healthy lifestyle behaviors like good nutrition and regular exercise.

Age – women over age 50 are at highest risk for developing heart disease.
Family history – did you parents, grandparents or any other blood relative experience any form of heart disease or suffer a heart attack? If so, you are at higher risk.
Ethnic background – African-American women and Hispanic women are at higher risk for developing heart disease.

Diabetes – if you have diabetes, talk to you doctor about your risk for developing heart disease and learn how you can best control the diabetes to limit that risk.
High blood pressure and high cholesterol – know your numbers and work closely with your doctor to keep your blood pressure and cholesterol in a healthy range.

Symptoms of a heart attack in women may be more “atypical” and thus may lead to misdiagnosis. Chest pain is not the most common warning symptom in women. Rather, shortness of breath and indigestion are more often reported. Other frequently described symptoms are neck and jaw discomfort, toothache, arm pain and fatigue. If you experience any of these symptoms in an unusual or profound way, don’t delay – call 911.

Stay tuned for monthly heart-healthy tips for WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease. Learn more about traditional and nontraditional risk factors, diagnostic approaches, treatment and tips for living heart healthy as they apply to the number one health threat to women.

Be proactive about your heart health!

About Tracy Stevens, M.D.:
Tracy Stevens, M.D. serves on the Scientific Advisory Council for WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease. She is a Board Certified Cardiologist at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Missouri and the Medical Director of the Muriel I. Kauffman Women’s Heart Center.

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