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Cardiovascular disease, heart attack risk in women

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Cardiovascular disease is a killer for both men and women, however, for the past thirty years the death rate has been higher for women than men. In fact, according to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the number one killer of women and is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined.

Recently, the AHA released a statement looking to identify why women carry more risk than men when it comes to heart disease.

Dr. Deborah Kwon, a cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic, agrees with the AHA's statement that women don't always recognize the signs of heart attack, which could be part of the problem.

"They don't necessarily have the crushing chest pain where it feels like an elephant is sitting on their chest. But they may have something more like back pain, or jaw pain, and so it may not come to patient's forefront of their mind that they may be having a heart attack," Kwon explained.

The AHA says that in the past 15 years, there has been a significant decline in the number of women killed by heart disease. They attribute the decline to a combination of evidence-based therapies and increased education for both patients and doctors.

Despite these advances, the AHA says that more needs to be done to educate folks about the risk for women, especially when it comes to younger women. Kwon says being proactive and creating enough
awareness among women of their risk for heart disease is the key to further reducing death rates in the United States.

"I think that women should really be very proactive in their health in terms of primary prevention," advised Kwon. "They should really make sure that they're seeing a doctor regularly, that they're engaging in a healthy lifestyle-actively exercising and eating a healthy diet."

Kwon also says that women, who are often the primary caregivers in their household, must remember to take care of themselves as well. You can help do that by signing up for the Take It To Heart 4 On 4 Challenge. Channel 4, together with the doctors at Baker-Gilmour Cardiovascular Institute and our friends at Walgreens, have put together the challenge and want to remind you of the four steps on the 4th of every month.

Step 1: Like previously mentioned, learn the symptoms  and see how heart disease in women is different than in men.

Step 2: Know your risk factors. For example, are you diabetic? Do you have elevated cholesterol?

Step 3: Stop smoking. If you don't smoke, make sure you spread the word how DEADLY the habit is...

Step 4: Exercise, even if it is something as simple as walking will put you in the right direction.