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Heart-Health Tips from a Heart Surgeon

Dr. Kathy Magliato is familiar with the effects of poor heart health. As a heart surgeon (one of the few females in the profession), she's seen the sometimes drastic results of smoking, unhealthy eating, and risk factors ignored.

She wrote "Heart Matters" to spread awareness of the importance of heart health, particularly for women, for whom heart disease doesn't seem to loom as large as other conditions. In fact, heart disease kills more women than all cancers combined -- 1 in every 2.4 women.

Risk Factors
Prevention begins with knowing your risk factors. If you fall into two or more of these categories (or just one, if it's diabetes), you are considered at high risk for a heart attack and should make an appointment with a cardiologist if you haven't already.

  • Older than age 55
  • Family history of cardiovascular disease
  • High blood pressure (more than 120/80 mmHg)
  • High cholesterol (more than 200 mg/dl)
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity (more than 25 BMI)
  • Smoking

Surprising Symptoms
Although we think of clutching the chest in pain when we think of a heart attack, 50 percent of female heart attack victims experience no chest pain. The No. 1 heart attack symptom for women is fatigue. Others include shortness of breath, nausea, indigestion, light-headedness, left-arm pain, jaw pain, and neck/throat pain.

If You Have Symptoms
If you think you are experiencing symptoms of heart disease, stop what you are doing immediately -- call 911, and do not attempt to drive yourself to the hospital. Take any prescribed heart medicine, and take an aspirin (unless you have a contraindication to aspirin).

In addition, intense chest pain extending to your back may indicate an aortic dissection, which is a small tear in the aorta. If tests show that profound chest pain is not the result of a heart attack, ask for a CAT scan to ensure that it's not an aortic dissection.

Resources
Learn 8 new ways to maintain good heart health.

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