Valentine’s Day is this month and little red paper hearts abound. But, are you thinking about your own heart?
February is Heart Disease Awareness Month. How much do you know about women’s heart health? With 1 in every 4 deaths occurring from coronary artery disease, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US. But, when women have heart attacks we are more likely to die from it. Why? Because women tend to have atypical symptoms.
The classic symptoms of a heart attack are crushing chest pressure that can radiate to the jaw or left arm. Women, however, can present with more subtle symptoms that are easily overlooked or missed. These symptoms include nausea, vomiting, indigestion-like symptoms, shortness of breath or fatigue.
What can you do to prevent a heart attack? Know your risk factors! There are some risk factors you can’t change, like family history, race and genetics. However, the majority of risk factors you can control. These risk factors include smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and being overweight (BMI >25).
- If you smoke, talk to your primary care physician about medications than can help you quit.
- Know your blood pressure. Haven’t been to the doctor in a while? The next time you are at the grocery store, stop by the pharmacy and as them to check your blood pressure for free. The goal is <120/80. If your blood pressure is high, decrease your salt intake, exercise regularly and lose weight if your BMI is >25. Make an appointment to talk to your primary care physician to see if you need medications.
- Have your cholesterol checked. Starting at age 20, if you smoke, have diabetes, hypertension, are obese (BMI>30) or have a family history of heart disease, you should be screened regularly. A total cholesterol of <200 and an LDL of <100 is optimal.
If you have chest pain, shortness of breath with exertion, abnormal heartbeats, fatigue or other concerning symptoms, see your doctor. Remember that women’s symptoms may be vague, so talk to your doctor about any of these symptoms before they worsen!
About Dr. Susan Szulc
Susan V. Szulc, MD, is a board-certified internist with Bon Secours Medical Associates at Virginia Beach. She received her bachelor of science in microbiology from the University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla. Dr. Szulc earned her medical degree from Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) in Norfolk, Va., where she also completed a residency in internal medicine. Dr. Szulc is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. She is a member of the American Medical Association, American College of Physicians and American Medical Women’s Association. Dr. Szulc’s special interests include palliative care and hypertension.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Szulc please call (757) 305-1797!