Waving red flags

RELATED STORY: A heart to heart talk

By Michaela Gibson Morris

Daily Journal

Health advocates are hoping more women will see red about heart disease.

It kills more American women than any other condition, but the myth persists that heart disease is a man's condition, Tupelo cardiologist Dr. Barry Bertolet said.

“Heart disease is not recognized as readily in women,” Bertolet said.

According to the American Heart Association, one in two women will die from heart disease or stroke. One in 27 women will die from breast cancer.

“It beats the pants off breast cancer,” Bertolet said.

Because women are less likely to have the classic symptoms of heart disease, they and their physicians often attribute unusual fatigue or trouble sleeping to other causes, Bertolet said.

“Benign neglect is never good,” when it comes to heart disease, Bertolet said.

Caretaker syndrome

It's easy for women to neglect their own health, said Joyce Riley, who was diagnosed with heart disease in October 2001.

If one of her children or her late husband Jack had complained of the same symptoms she had – shortness of breath, fatigue and an aching shoulder – she would have made sure they were evaluated.

“Women kind of take care of everyone else,” Riley said.

Eventually, Riley had to make a trip for the emergency room. Doctors discovered a large blockage, which was cleared and stented. Now Riley is back to an active life.

Treatment

The good news is the same measures to prevent full-blown heart attacks – lifestyle changes, medication and minimally invasive procedures like angioplasty – work for women as well as men, Bertolet said.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” Bertolet said.