February 13, 2012
Suzanne Steinbaum, DO
How you live can have serious consequences. For instance, atherosclerosis (plaque in the arteries) builds up when there is damage to the lining of the arteries, frequently due to lifestyle. But high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, obesity, sedentary habits and stress are all factors we can control through diet, and exercise and stress management.
Family health history is also significant. The risk for cardiac disease goes up for women whose father had heart disease at 55 or younger or whose mother had heart disease at 65 or younger. The greatest risk is if a sibling has developed atherosclerosis or has suffered a cardiac event like a heart attack.
Prevention is key, since heart disease is often harder to detect and treat for women. That’s because women’s heart attacks often look different than the crushing central chest pain typically depicted in movies or TV. Instead, women may complain of shortness of breath, jaw pain, back pain, nausea, fatigue or even flu-like symptoms. Such varied symptoms may delay diagnosis and treatment.
Before symptoms can develop, get a diagnosis--especially if you are over 65. See your doctor and get all the information you can about your risk for developing heart disease.