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Women: Win the Battle Against Heart Disease

It’s the number one cause of death in both Oklahoma and the nation. In 2006, it claimed more than one in every four women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Yet there are ways to battle heart disease and to win the fight for your heart. Although some may think of heart disease as a disease that mainly affects men, the same number of women and men die each year of heart disease in the United States. Often women may not recognize the signs of a heart attack or perceive themselves at risk for heart disease.

Dr. Katherine Hays is a board-certified cardiologist at Norman Regional Health System, who treats both men and women with heart disease. The Health System brings total cardiac care to Oklahomans - from the doctor’s office to the specialized Chest Pain Center at the HealthPlex to operating rooms.

Almost two-thirds of the women who die suddenly of coronary heart disease have no previous symptoms, according to the CDC. Dr. Hays said women tend to have a higher proportion of atypical symptoms. So what can you do to keep your heart healthy?

Know the Signs of an Attack

Getting medical attention fast is the key to surviving a heart attack. Learn the symptoms and don’t hesitate to call 9-1-1 in an emergency. Did you know most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort? Often the people affected aren’t sure what’s wrong and wait too long before getting help.

Some signs include:

  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Chest pain, pressure or tightness that extends from the neck, throat, jaw, shoulder and/or arm
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest burning, similar to heartburn or indigestion
  • Chest discomfort just below the breastbone

Dr. Hays said that because a myocardial infarction (heart attack) usually occurs without warning, it can cause severe anxiety. It can also cause other symptoms such as nausea, lightheadedness, fainting, or profuse sweating, she said.

Reduce Your Risk

Dr. Hays recommends both women and men see their primary care physician on a regular basis.

“Depending on their age, family history, symptoms and other risk factors different tests are appropriate at different times,” Dr. Hays said. For example after menopause, women have an increased risk of heart attack or stroke.

There are three main things any one at any age can do to reduce their risk of heart disease. Dr. Hays recommends a healthy diet low in saturated fat, cholesterol and calories, exercising regularly (20 to 30 minutes per day) and quitting smoking.

Know Your Risk Factors

Nine out of 10 heart disease patients have at least one risk factor. Several medical conditions and lifestyle choices can put women at a higher risk for heart disease, including:

  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Poor diet
  • Physical inactivity

Dr. Hays is board-certified in internal medicine, cardiovascular disease and echocardiography. She completed medical school, residency and fellowship at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. Her office is located at 900 North Porter, Suite 203. She has a weekly clinic at Moore Medical Center and a monthly clinic in Blanchard, Okla. Contact her practice at (405) 360-3089.

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Contact Kelly Wells
Norman Regional Health System

Office (405) 307.2143
Fax (405) 307.2144