Heart disease in women often undetected

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by By OLGA CAMPOS KVUE News

kvue.com

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:36 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 20 at 2:55 PM

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KVUE's Olga Campos reports

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There's a reason we are seeing so much red this month, and it's not just because of Valentine's Day. February is also "Go Red for Women" month, with the focus on preventing heart disease -- the number one killer among women.

In the media, heart attack victims are almost always men, and excruciating chest pains are a sure sign.

But when it comes to women, cardiologist Parul Desai says signs often go undetected.

Those signs include fatigue, shortness of breath and pressure in the chest that often climbs higher. "It's a little more worrisome when they say it goes up to their throat or they have pressure in their neck or their jaw," Dr Desai said.

Jaw pain was misdiagnosed by another doctor, leaving patient Pamela Akins with major blockage that went dangerously undetected.

"We were all stunned because I never had any symptoms fortunately never had a heart attack but the bottom line is after trying several things I ended up having a triple by-pass surgery," she said.

Dr. Desai says preventing heart disease is simple. She says women should exercise 30 minutes every day and eat healthy. These two steps will help offset what patients can't control -- their family history.

"The stronger your family history -- meaning father with heart attacks under 50, mothers with heart attacks under 60 -- your cardiologist is going to up your risk," said Dr. Desai.

A family history of heart disease isn't stopping Akins from encouraging other women to take care of their hearts. "Many, many women are at risk and we think we're doing everything right, but we just neglect to have that check up or get that test," she said.

Eating healthy and daily exercise also help to control diabetes, high blood pressure and hypertension.

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