Cardiologist Dr. Smriti Deshmukh shares the symptoms to spot and the screenings to get to avoid the No. 1 killer of women.
We tend to think of heart disease as a mostly male problem. As a result, women who might be experiencing signs of a heart attack often don’t seek immediate care.
In fact, it is common for women to wait more than six hours after that first symptom before going to the emergency department, according to the American Heart Association.
Women are tough! Between family and career obligations, they are used to pushing through random discomfort and seemingly common ailments like acid reflux or the flu to get the job done. This is perhaps one reason why many women delay getting to the emergency department in time to prevent damage to their hearts, explains Dr. Smriti Deshmukh, a cardiologist at White Plains Hospital.
While chest pain is still the primary symptom of heart attack in women, the sensation will often feel more like tightness or weakness compared to the sudden onset of crushing pain often dramatized in movies. Surprisingly, chest pain is absent in 43% of women having heart attack.
Other symptoms include:
Women are generally much better about taking care of their health needs and getting proper screenings than men, which is why it’s ironic that they fall behind when it comes to heart disease. According to the AHA, almost two-thirds (64%) of women who die suddenly from coronary heart disease had no warning signs. “In past ten years, there has been tremendous advancement in the technology used to diagnose heart issues,” notes Dr. Deshmukh. Echocardiology has become the backbone of cardiovascular workups, using sound waves to create pristine 3D images of your heart muscle and valves, she adds.
Dr. Deshmukh suggests annual checkups with a physician every year staring at age 40 or sooner if you have a family history of heart disease. This includes checking blood pressure and blood work to screen for diabetes and other issues that may be raising a red flag on your cardiovascular health.
Should that happen, take heart: 80% of cardiac events can be prevented through lifestyle changes, say the experts. Having a healthy heart means cutting out some bad habits and adopting a few other good ones.
Dr. Deshmukh says overall weight loss is definitely one of those goals, but not the primary one. “I focus more on physical activity with my patients,” she says. “Once they get that endorphin release of being more active, they automatically adjust their diet to complement increased physical activity. That mood elevation from exercise motivates you to make better choices with food.”
While it’s frightening to know that someone dies of a heart attack every 43 seconds, this statistic can be reversed. Know the symptoms of heart disease, get screened, and practice prevention.
White Plains Hospital is a proud sponsor of the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign, which works to increase women’s heart health awareness and serve as a catalyst for change to improve the lives of women throughout Westchester County.
Dr. Smriti H. Deshmukh, MD, FACC, is a cardiologist and echocardiologist with White Plains Hospital Physician Associates, seeing patients at 33 Davis Avenue and 2 Longview Avenue, Suite 500, in White Plains. For information or to make an appointment, call (914) 849-7105.
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