EL PASO, Texas -- Heart disease is the number one cause of death for women in the U.S. and local cardiologist Dr. Daisy Nieto with The Hospitals of Providence says taking care of your heart needs to begin early.
"We do know there's been a surge in cardiovascular disease and heart attacks in women in earlier age groups like 30 to 40, said Nieto. "That's directly related to lifestyle and obesity. The average age for a woman to have a heart attack is around the age of 65, which is a little different than men at 72."
Nieto says menopause can also have a factor on a woman's heart health. "It used to be thought that hormonal therapy during menopause was protective," Nieto says. "Now there's a little bit of a debate on that. But certainly there are a lot of hormonal changes which can be a factor."
Symptoms of a heart attack can be different for women than they are for men, says Dr. Nieto. "The classical teaching is the chest discomfort, like an elephant is sitting on my chest, pain, pressure or tightness. That can also happen with women. But we have recognized more and more that sometimes women have shortness of breath which doesn't make sense for the situation, a feeling of reflux, a profound sweatiness, and so we encourage women to take those symptoms seriously."
Dr. Nieto says stress reduction or stress management is key to a woman's heart health. "If a woman can't reduce the stress, find a better way to deal with it," said Nieto. "At least 30 minutes a day of exercise that raises your heart rate is important. Weightlifting can be positive for bone health. And being heart healthy in your diet. We're starting to advocate a much more plant-based approach to dieting and a lifestyle that includes more fruits and vegetables and less items from the animal kingdom."