Heart Disease: Biggest Threat for Women

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Heart disease is the number one killer for American women and a study find the majority of women don't even know it.

Eighty-six-year-old Annette Thorpe is alive and well. However, six years ago she wasn't so sure her life would be filled with such happiness and good health.

She underwent quadruple bypass surgery before realizing her family's heart attack history was a risk factor for her all along.

"We did not know the importance of knowing one's family health history,” she said. “I think if we had known that we'd have taken better care of ourselves."

Thorpe is lucky.

Each year, about 500,000 women in the United States die from heart disease.

Dr. Javier Escobar, medical director at Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare's Bixler Emergency Room, says heart disease is the number one killer for American women, yet many don't realize it.

"One of the major problems is women don't present the same as men do,” he explained. “Women are more likely to present without chest pain when they're having a heart attack."

Florida Deputy State Health Officer Bonita Sorensen says too many women are overweight with high blood pressure and cholesterol. "Much of this is related to our eating habits and our physical activity, so trying to improve those, particularly this time of year, is important."

Katherine Mason of Tallahassee did improve those two things and lost 70 pounds after she was diagnosed with high blood pressure.

She said, "I am now off three of the four blood pressure medicines and very proud of it. Not only do I feel better and look better, but I know medically in terms of heart disease, I've lowered my risk."

Perhaps Mason is proof that a long life does lie ahead if women can just be smart when it comes to taking care of their heart.

Next month, WCTV is partnering with health officials to answer viewer questions about heart health.

For several days our phone lines will be open to take calls.