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Women’s Heart Health

Cardiovascular disease is a major cause of death in women of all ages, with about one-half million women dying each year in the U.S.

One in every three American women dies of heart disease.  The disease in women may not be easily recognized because some women have different symptoms for heart attack than men, says Dr. Tiffany Malli, assistant professor of internal medicine at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.  She explains some symptoms.

SOUND BITE:    “We typically think about symptoms like chest pressure, or maybe the pain and pressure in the chest radiating to the jaw or the arm as the classic presentation of a heart attack.  In women in particular the symptoms don’t always present typically like this.”

Dr. Malli says women often have more vague symptoms such as fatigue and shortness of breath.  And some tests for heart disease are not as conclusive in women as in men.  Also, women’s breast tissue can obscure the images that are taken.  She explains the risk factors for heart disease.

SOUND BITE:  “The risk factors for women are the same as for the general population.  Those include a family history of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and smoking status.  Probably the most modifiable of all those is smoking. So quitting smoking is an extremely important part of modifying those risks and staying healthy.”

Dr. Malli says there are a number of newer treatments for heart disease, which can help minimize the condition.  She also says women can lessen their risk of heart disease by eating the right foods and getting a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise most days.  If a woman has symptoms for heart attack, she should see her primary care physician or go to a hospital emergency room as quickly as possible.

This is Ruth Slottag at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.