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MedWatch- Making women aware of heart disease risk factors

(Source KSWO) (Source KSWO)

LAWTON, OK (KSWO)- The death of iconic actress and writer Carrie Fisher from a heart attack has put the spotlight on heart disease, which kills women at a higher rate than any other ailment. But it turns out, doctors say heart disease is almost completely preventable and more women should be aware of their risk factors.

Dee Anderson didn't think her extreme fatigue was a warning sign until she got to the hospital.

"He said, Dee, you're having a heart attack."

Like many women she had...

"Pressure, slight pressure in my chest that ran across the chest. Not in one particular spot. No pain. No stabbing pain. Nothing like that," Anderson explained.

Comanche County Memorial Hospital Cardiologist Dr. Vijaya Velury says heart disease is rising in women and heart attacks are one of the biggest concerns.

"A woman need to understand that it's no longer true that they are at lower risk than men are by the time they are 40 they are at as much risk as man, and with increasing age they are actually at higher risk than men are,” said Dr. Velury of the SW OK Heart and Vascular Center at CCMH.

Often women don't realize they are suffering a heart attack. Their symptoms can be much subtler than a man's.

"Women tend to come to medical attention less often than men do. Then women can have atypical symptoms for heart disease, and also women tend to have smaller coronary arteries than men so after angioplasty and stenting they may not do as well as men do,” Dr. Velury explained.

Women may feel extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, or experience pain in their shoulders, jaw and neck. And although symptoms may be different than a man's, the risk factors are the same. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, obesity and an in-active lifestyle.

For Dee Anderson, two weeks after her first bout of chest tightness, her symptoms got worse.

"It wasn't just a pressure anymore or a discomfort, it was an ache, like a bad toothache. Suddenly I felt the same ache in my elbows. Just in my elbows. In my chest and in my elbows and then I knew it was cardiac,” Anderson explained.

Dr. Velury advises women to make the lifestyle changes necessary to lower their risk and if you feel any symptoms of heart attack don't wait, get immediate medical attention.

"It is important that they seek medical attention and pay attention to blood pressure and diabetes control and cholesterol control,” Dr. Velury said.

Comanche County Memorial Hospital is Southwest Oklahoma's major heart attack hospital. With its advanced heart program and the number of cardiovascular doctors on staff, they work with other area hospitals to make sure the patient gets to CCMH quickly giving doctors enough time to perform a potentially life-saving procedure during a heart attack. When it comes to heart attacks, time is muscle. So knowing the symptoms, and where to go is important. If you or a loved one think you may be having a heart attack, don't hesitate to call 911.

For MedWatch 7, I'm Makenzie Burk.

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