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5 things women need to know about heart disease | Health

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5 things women need to know about heart disease
5 things women need to know about heart disease

SHARPSBURG, Ga. -- Dr. Andrew Darlington of Piedmont Heart in Sharpsburg offers this important list of five things women need to know about heart disease. As part of American Heart Month in February, Piedmont Heart is offering a $100 heart screening for women. For more details, visit piedmont.org/getscreened.

Significant progress has been made in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease among women.  Despite these advances, challenges remain, particularly in general awareness among women.  Here are several key aspects of cardiovascular disease that all women should be familiar with today.

#1 Cardiovascular disease in women is common

One in every three women suffer from cardiovascular disease and it remains the leading cause of death in this population.  In the United States, one woman dies every minute from cardiovascular disease and there are more deaths from cardiovascular disease in women than cancer, Alzheimer’s, chronic lower respiratory disease and accidents combined.

#2:  How to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack

Typical symptoms of a heart attack or myocardial infarction, may involve pressure or pain in the substernal area of the chest, with or without radiation down the arm, frequently the left.  Other less commonly thought of symptoms may include new onset shortness of breath, nausea, jaw or even back pain. Women may be more likely than men to report these atypical symptoms.  At the end of the day, it is most important to trust your instincts. A women’s intuition is a very powerful thing and it is important to never discount it.

#3: The need for exercise

Physical activity should be an integral part of the general health plan for all women.  Of note, aerobic activity need not be strenuous, a common misconception.  In addition, it’s important to note that women of all ages can benefit from the positive cardiovascular effects of aerobic activity such as jogging, biking, swimming or even walking.  Women should strive to achieve a goal of 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity per week.  Unfortunately, less than 40% of women achieve this goal and 25% of women are not active at all.

#4 A healthy well-rounded diet can go a long way

Women should be advised to consume a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and to choose whole-grain, high-fiber foods.  In addition, women should be encouraged to consume fish, especially oily fish, at least twice a week.  Finally, a limit should be placed on the intake of saturated fat, cholesterol, alcohol, sodium, and sugar.

#5: Therapies without proven benefit for CVD prevention in women

Certain commonly utilized therapies may be of no additional benefit and even potentially harmful in women.  For example, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has not proven useful for the prevention of heart disease in otherwise healthy, postmenopausal women and may even increase the risk for cardiovascular events.   This was demonstrated in the Women’s Health Initiative Trial published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2002.  Despite this evidence, there may be some healthy effects of HRT for women with severe menopausal symptoms.  I advise that women avoid HRT utilized for the purposes of heart disease prevention.  However, when estrogen is needed for significant menopausal symptoms, the lowest dose for the shortest amount of time is generally safe.

Andrew Darlington, D.O., practices at Piedmont Heart in Newnan, Sharpsburg and Fayetteville. Dr. Darlington earned his medical degree at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in Philadelphia. He completed his internship and residency in Internal Medicine at the University of Florida College of Medicine in Jacksonville, where he was the Chief Medical Resident. Following his residency, he completed a Cardiology fellowship at the University of Florida and served as the Chief Cardiovascular Fellow.

Dr. Darlington completed his fellowship training in Advanced Heart Failure and Transplant Cardiology at Yale University and is board certified in Internal Medicine, Cardiovascular Medicine and Nuclear Cardiology. Dr. Darlington is a fellow of the American College of Cardiology and a member of the International Society of Heart and Lung Transplantation and Cardiomyopathy. He has a special interest in Congestive Heart Failure and Cardiomyopathy.