Heart help: What women need to know

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LOS ANGELES, Calif. - Heart disease is the number one killer of women, taking more lives than all cancers combined, but many women don't know what's fact and what's fiction when it comes to heart health.

KC Maurer is used to being on the go. She's been all over the world, but one of her biggest accomplishments happened outside her doorstep: completing the New York City Marathon.

"I did 489 miles worth of training," said Maurer.

What's even more impressive, she lost 110 pounds after having three heart attacks at age 40.

"Heart attack number one was absolutely a wake-up call for me," she said.

Like many women, Maurer didn't know all the signs; do you? True or false, chest pain is the most common symptom of a heart attack?

False, the first sign is often stomachache, nausea, vomiting, jaw or shoulder pain, sweating, or fatigue.

Question two – what happens in pregnancy can affect your heart risk later?

"Women going through pregnancy who have diabetes during pregnancy, who have preeclampsia, who have high blood pressures during pregnancy have a dramatically increased risk of future stroke and heart attack events," explained Holly Andersen, MD.

Question three – all women should take a baby aspirin a day to prevent their risk?

False, studies show only those with a history of heart disease or other risk factors should. True or false, your waistline matters more than your weight when it comes to heart risk? This is true.

"Measure yourself; it's not a tailor's measurement. Measure yourself around the waistline around where the navel is," said Andersen. "Ideally, women should have less than 29 inches. If you're less than 33 or 34, you're probably ok."

Maurer's advice is simple.

"I try to laugh every day, I try to see friends," she said.

An American Heart Association survey found only 53% of women would call 911 if they believed they were having a heart attack. Another recent survey found that less than one in five physicians knew that more women than men die each year from heart disease.

Additional Information:

The heart health facts from the story are listed below:

  • The first sign of heart attack is often stomach ache, nausea, vomiting, jaw or shoulder pain, sweating, or fatigue.
  • What happens in pregnancy can affect a woman's heart risk later on, such as preeclampsia and diabetes.
  • Only women with a history of heart disease or other risk factors should take a baby aspirin a day.
  • The size of your waistline matters more than your weight when it comes to heart risk.

Heart Disease in Women: Often times, heart disease is considered to be a larger concern for men than women, but heart disease is the number one killer and leading cause of disability for women in the U.S. Furthermore, heart attacks seem to have more severe consequences for women. Two-thirds of women who have a heart attack do not make a full recovery and more women die from heart attacks than men. Due to this low rate of recovery, women should be aware of their own risk of heart disease and try to maintain a healthy lifestyle to prevent heart disease. (Source: nlm.nih.gov)

Lower Your Risk: Some factors increasing a woman's risk of heart disease cannot be controlled, like a family history of heart attack, but women can take steps to control other risk factors and hopefully prevent heart disease.

  • Stop smoking immediately.
  • If you're over 20 years old, get your blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels tested at least once every 5 years.
  • Find healthy ways to relieve stress.
  • Maintain a healthy blood pressure.

Maintaining a healthy weight, cutting back on fatty foods and sodium, eating a balanced diet, and exercising all help to control cholesterol and triglyceride levels as well as lower blood pressure, so try to work these habits into your daily life. (Source: womenshealth.gov)

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