Friday, February 12, 2016 4:34 PM

Would you recognize if you were having symptoms of heart disease?

Approximately every 80 seconds a women will die from heart disease nationwide. Statistically one out of three of us will die from either heart attack or stroke within our lifespan.  Heart disease has been the number one killer of both men and women at least since the 70’s. We have made significant improvement in decreasing the mortality of men but not a significant decrease in women.  Part of the reason is that our symptoms are not common and standard testing we use such as stress tests many not pick up the disease.  

View video of Dr. Daniele's appearance on Central Valley Today morning TV show discussing how women's heart disease differs from men.

As a medical professional, I often see women who come to me because they are finally tired of feeling tired!  Many times it is their spouses who urge them to get medical attention.  Women have a tendency to downplay their initial symptoms because. Let’s face it, we are too busy to deal with it first of all and secondly it can’t possibly be our heart as the chest does not hurt.  By the time they present to the office they have often times already injured their heart muscle by having already had a heart attack.

The month of February is a time to give women’s heart health some attention.  My hope is that more women understand what heart disease is, what the symptoms are, and what the risk factors are.  Heart disease is preventable and treatable if identified in a timely manner.

Identifying heart disease in women is completely different from men. Many people believe that a heart attack would be felt as a pain in the chest or arm, however these symptoms are more typical in men. Many times our symptoms are subtle including unexplained shortness of breath or feeling tired.  Other times it included right sided chest pain or heartburn and therefore we dismiss them and don’t seek medical.

As a mother and cardiologist I understand why we often times rationalize why we feel tired because let’s face it, we’re exhausted sometimes after being the care taker of our entire family and friends.  But remember it is not OK to feel that way every day without any good days in between. I encourage you to remember when you are feeling fatigued and short of breath that 80 percent of strokes could be prevented with early intervention. Don’t brush it off as normal; please see a doctor and report your symptoms.

The most common risk factors associated with heart disease are high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, and genetics. Although genetics are risk factors that cannot be altered it’s important to take the time to see a doctor and monitor your health if you know heart disease runs in your family. Beyond that, remember these “ABC’s” for taking care of your heart:
  • Activity – get some daily! About 30 minutes of walking can make a big difference.
  • Blood Pressure – keep it in healthy levels either with exercise and diet or medication.
  • Cholesterol – keep your numbers in health levels with exercise and diet or medication.
  • Diet – eat lots of whole fruits and vegetables, fish and whole grains; minimize processed foods, sugar and red meat. Read the American Heart Association’s recommendations.
  • Exercise – again get moving! This one bears repeating.

All these work together to keep your heart healthy and strong, which will decrease the chance of you having heart disease.

I invite you to learn more by attending the UCSF Heart Talks on February 16th, from Noon to 2 p.m., in the Community Regional Medical Center’s Sequoia Conference Room. There will be live cooking demonstrations, refreshments, and Dr. Tanya Warwick will join me for a discussion about women’s risk for heart disease and stroke. Knowledge is power and we can stop being a statistic, one woman at a time. Come to Go Red for Women events and take part in changing your life and the lives of other women.

Teresa Daniele, M.D.
Director, Center for Women’s Cardiovascular Health
Community Regional Medical Center
Assistant Professor of Medicine, UCSF-Fresno