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Cardiology FAQs

I’ve heard that heart attack symptoms are different in men and women. As a woman, what are the signs I should look for to reduce my risk?

"Even though the symptoms for heart attack can be quite similar in women and men, studies have shown that some differences do exist," says Rupa Puttappa, MD, a Cardiology specialist at Kelsey-Seybold . "Women are just as vulnerable to a heart attack as men. Heart disease kills six times as many women as does breast cancer each year."

There are differences in how women and men respond to a heart attack.

"Women are less likely to believe they're having a heart attack and more likely to delay in seeking emergency treatment," says Dr. Puttappa. "Furthermore, women who've had a heart attack are at higher risk of having a second heart attack. That makes it even more important to get proper treatment fast."

You should know the heart attack warning signs. Common symptoms include pain or discomfort in the center of the chest or in other areas such as the arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach. As with men, the most common heart attack symptom for women is chest pain or discomfort. However, only a third of women report the classic symptoms of chest pain. "Women are more likely than men to experience certain symptoms like shortness of breath, nausea, or back and jaw pain," adds Dr. Puttappa.

"If you experience heart attack symptoms, do not delay. Time is of the essence," she says. "Reduce your risk of heart attack by exercising regularly and eating heart-healthy meals. If you are a smoker, you should quit."

How can I reduce my elevated triglyceride levels? I'd rather not take medication.

People with high triglycerides have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease," says Madjid Mirzaitehrane, MD, a Kelsey-Seybold cardiologist. "Lowering your triglycerides is similar to lowering other unhealthy lipid levels, so start with your diet. Avoid saturated fats (found in red meat, butter, and full-fat dairy products), and focus on unsaturated fats (found in olives, flaxseed, vegetable oils, most nuts, and avocados). Also, increase your intake of fish such as mackerel, lake trout, sardines, albacore tuna, and salmon. These are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which have triglyceride-lowering effects. Lastly, avoid excessive sugar and refined white flour products, replacing them with whole grains and oat bran."

What are the symptoms of high blood pressure? Is there anything I can do to prevent hypertension?

"Many people with hypertension don’t experience symptoms," says Donnie Aga, MD, an Internal Medicine specialist at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic. "Those who have symptoms may experience fatigue, confusion, headache, dizziness, anxiety, chest pains, excessive sweating, vision problems, buzzing or ringing in the ears, or an irregular heartbeat. The only way to detect hypertension is to have your blood pressure checked. You may reduce the likelihood of developing hypertension by reducing the fats and salt in your diet and increasing the fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your diet. Regular aerobic exercise is very important, along with maintaining a healthy body weight and limiting the amount of alcohol you consume. And if you're still smoking, stop now. Your doctor can help you find a good cessation program."

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