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Women: Take control of your heart health

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The WVU Heart and Vascular Institute and the American Heart Association (AHA) are encouraging all women to take control of their heart health this month, which is American Heart Month.

According to the AHA, cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of women, causing one in three deaths each year. It affects some women at higher rates than others, but most cardiovascular diseases can still be prevented with education and healthy lifestyle changes. 

Heart disease and stroke can affect a woman at any age, making it vital for all women to understand their personal risk factors and family history. Women can also experience unique life events, including pregnancy and menopause, which can affect their risk. Research shows that stress may impact health, making it important for women to understand the mind-body connection and how to focus on improving both their physical health and mental well-being.

“Unfortunately, many women do not realize that cardiovascular disease is their greatest health threat. They will get annual mammograms, Pap smears, and screening colonoscopies, but they often neglect their heart health,” Madhavi Kadiyala, M.D., director of the Women’s Heart Program at the WVU Heart and Vascular Institute, said. “The best news about heart disease is that it can be reversed and even prevented. Small changes like moving more, eating right, and maintaining a healthy blood pressure can go a long way.”

The Women’s Heart Center at the WVU Heart and Vascular Institute provides West Virginia and the surrounding regions a dedicated center for screening and educating women on identifying and reducing their risk for cardiovascular disease by continually providing information to the general population and to community providers concerning the latest female cardiovascular risk factors and treatments.

It is also important for women to know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack:

  • Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain in the center of the chest. It lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back.
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or lightheadedness.
  • As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort.

However, women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.

“Anyone experiencing the symptoms of a heart attack – women or men – should call 911, and get to a hospital immediately,” George Sokos, D.O., medical director of Noninvasive Cardiology and the Advanced Heart Failure Program at the WVU Heart and Vascular Institute, said. “With a heart attack, every minute matters, and the faster treatment begins, the better the chance for survival.”

For more information about women’s heart health, visit GoRedForWomen.org. For more information on the WVU Heart and Vascular Institute, visit WVUMedicine.org/Heart

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