News and Tribune

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February 15, 2013

Maintaining heart health is a year-round job

Heart deaths spike in winter but a healthy lifestyle is your best defense

(Continued)

Cohen says 90 percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease.  She says these misconceptions could be putting women’s lives at risk every day.

“The symptom many women focus on is chest pain, but the reality is that women are also likely to experience other types of symptoms, including shortness of breath, back or jaw pain, and nausea or vomiting,” she said. “This misperception may lead many women to ignore or minimize their symptoms and delay getting life-saving treatment.”

Other symptoms of a heart attack for both women and men include dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting; pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen; and extreme fatigue.

Mariam Kashani, MS, CRNP and a DNP student at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, says the Framingham Risk Score (FRS), which doctors routinely use to predict heart disease in their patients, has a blind spot that could leave many patients vulnerable. She says it ignores family history, which means many patients might never see heart disease coming until it hits them.

No. 1 cause of death

“Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 cause of death and disability in the United States,” Kashani said. “Being categorized as low-risk when you are, in fact, truly high-risk could leave patients unaware and unarmed to take action to protect themselves.”

She's working to identify and warn those overlooked by FRS and get them started on an aggressive program to limit the danger.

To be on the safe side, everyone should take steps to improve heart health, and that means no smoking, tracking your cholesterol, maintaining a healthy weight and getting regular exercise. The American Heart Association says reducing sodium consumption is one of the healthiest things you can do for your heart.

Cut the sodium

Americans consume about 3,600 mg of sodium per day — more than twice the recommended limit. Reducing that by 40%, the researchers found, could save as many as 500,000 lives over ten years.

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