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Women should not ignore symptoms of heart disease

By: Hannah Blick, hannah.blick@gazette.com
February 5, 2016 Updated: February 17, 2016 at 11:27 am
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Look for Heart Health features on gazette.com/heart throughout American Heart Month, sponsored by Penrose-St. Francis Health Services.

Dr. Kimberly Dulaney, FACC, MD, is on a mission to get women in the Pikes Peak region to listen to their hearts.

“Women tend to get busy and don’t focus on taking care of themselves,” said Dr. Dulaney, who also serves as director of congestive heart failure for Penrose-St. Francis Health Services, part of the Centura Health Heart and Vascular Network, the region’s leading provider of cardiovascular care. “Too many women ignore symptoms that could potentially save their lives if listened to.”

While a majority of men who suffer from heart disease experience classic symptoms like severe chest pain and shortness of breath, only about half of the women with heart disease exhibit obvious signs. “Fifty-percent of the time, women will have more subtle symptoms like fatigue, nausea, slight chest discomfort, vomiting,” Dr. Dulaney said. She cited physiological and hormonal differences between genders for possible variation in presentation. “Men and women feel things differently,” Dr. Dulaney said. “I’d say this definitely contributes to women writing their symptoms off. Many will think they have the flu, and while it can be a vague presentation, these signs can be very real indications of heart disease.”

Dr. Dulaney offered the following tips for women wanting to stay heart healthy:

  • First, focus on yourself, not just on everybody else. I often hear quite a few reasons from my female patients why their symptoms aren’t heart related: family issues, driving kids all over the state, pressure at work. It’s important to take ownership for your health and get your heart checked and manage your stress.”
  • Give your symptoms credit – many things are not happening simply because you’re getting older, they could be symptoms of something truly serious. When you feel these symptoms – obvious or vague – get in to see your doctor right away.”
  • So much can be prevented with simple changes in diet and exercise. Once you reach ages 35-40, it’s important to get your cholesterol checked regularly and check blood pressure once a month. Be sure to weigh yourself regularly and see your primary care physician annually for basic blood work so all of your risk factors can be diagnosed sooner.”
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