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Ask a Doctor: Dr. Sharon Sadeghinia
Many people believe that heart disease occurs primarily in men, but the disease is actually the number-one killer in both women and men. Women also are less likely than men to survive a heart attack and experience symptoms differently than men.
Reducing your risk of heart disease starts with knowing how to take charge of your overall health and take better care of your body. Dr. Sharon Sadeghinia, a Sharp Grossmont-affiliated and board-certified cardiovascular disease specialist, answers the top five questions about heart disease and provides simple heart-healthy tips that can help women reduce their risk for heart disease.
What are some of the risk factors associated with heart disease in women?
The risk for heart disease includes factors that a woman can and cannot control. While family history and menopause are things that can’t be changed, other factors — smoking, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol and exercise — are things that a woman can control.
It is important for women to understand that by eliminating as many of their risk factors as possible, they increase their chances of preventing heart disease.
How does family history play a role as a risk factor?
Establishing a positive family history for heart disease isn’t always a black-and-white situation. A person whose first-degree family members have had heart disease at a younger age — a father who had heart disease before age 45 and mother who had heart disease before menopause, usually before age 50 — would demonstrate positive family history. However, family history may not be considered a prominent risk factor if the father had a heart attack later in life, such as in his 50s or 60s. Ultimately, the best way to understand how your family history may define your risk is to discuss with your own physician.
What are the typical signs of a heart attack? How do women's symptoms differ from those experienced by men?
“Typical” chest pain was based on outdated studies mostly involving white, middle-aged men. Women may not necessarily experience “pain” in the traditional sense, but might describe tightness, squeezing, spasms or “feeling of fullness” in the chest or upper abdomen.
Women may also feel discomfort in the chest that extends to the shoulders, back, jaw or teeth. These symptoms may be associated with nausea, vomiting, sweating, dizziness or shortness of breath. In some cases, they may not have any symptoms at all.
Women who experience these symptoms or think they may be experiencing a heart attack should seek treatment immediately by calling 911.
How can women reduce their risk of heart disease?
What foods are associated with heart-health benefits?
Free Seminar: Learn Lifestyle Tips for a Healthy Heart, Feb. 22
Dr. Sadeghinia leads this free seminar, along with Valerie Verge, MS, RD, a certified diabetes educator at Sharp Grossmont Hospital. Register today and learn more about staying heart healthy. A light snack will be served.
For More Information
For more information about heart and vascular care at Sharp or to find a Sharp-affiliated doctor, search for a San Diego cardiologist or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm. To find general information about heart and vascular care, visit Cardiovascular Diseases in Adult Health or read the Heart and Cardiovascular News archive.