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Heart disease No. 1 killer of women in the United States, statistics show


March 09, 2005 - More than 40 percent of the women who recently died in Missouri lost their lives to heart disease, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

Although heart disease once was considered a man's disease, it is the No. 1 killer of women nationwide, statistics show.

"Many people still believe heart attacks happen primarily to men, and women are not at risk, but heart disease is not just a man thing," Judy Alexiou, program coordinator for the department's Missouri Heart Disease and Stroke Program, stated in a news release.

"Women must learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of a heart attack in order to seek medical treatment that can save their lives," she added.

The signs and symptoms of a heart attack can be much different for women than men.

The classic signs for men are chest pains, feelings of fullness or squeezing and pain shooting down the left arm.

Women more often experience a sudden shortness of breath, sudden sweating or other flu-like symptoms, unusual fatigue, lightheadedness, weakness or dizziness.

Other symptoms common among females include pain in the upper back, neck, jaw or between the shoulder blades, feelings of anxiousness, indigestion and insomnia.

And some women are more at risk than others, the release stated.

Risk factors are smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, age, physical inactivity, diabetes, a family history of heart disease and menopause, ac-cording to the news release.

Race or ethnicity is another risk factor. African-American and Hispanic women face the highest risk of death from heart disease, the release stated.

"Some risk factors, such as age, race and family history, are beyond our control," Alexiou stated. "But it is important to know that others can be prevented or controlled with lifestyle changes and medication."

Women who have heart disease often do not fare as well as men with the disease, according to the Department of Health and Senior Services.

More women than men — 38 percent to 25 percent — will die within one year of a recognized heart attack.

More women than men — 35 percent to 18 percent — surviving a heart attack will have another heart attack within six years.

Women are almost twice as likely as men to die after bypass surgery.

"The good news is medical professionals are becoming more aware of the risks and symptoms of heart disease in women and are taking steps to better address women's health care needs," Alexiou said.

To learn about about women and heart di-sease, call the Missouri Heart Disease and Stroke Program at (800) 316-0935.

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