Thursday, May 10, 2007
For Mother's Day, focus on the heart
The best gift you can give to your mother this Mother's Day is a heart-to-heart, about well... her heart. It's a fact. Heart disease is the biggest killer of men, and women. Heart disease kills far more women than breast cancer, and yet few people, even doctors, know that. This month, take time to make sure your mom is getting her heart checked out. Today is my mom's birthday and I called her first thing to remind her.
Here are some things to specifically look for: Besides an accurate blood pressure reading, which she should remember for future comparisons, she should get blood tests, including cholesterol and triglycerides. An EKG, or electrocardiogram, which checks the heart's electrical activity, is also a good start. If she has ever had any symptoms, she may need a stress test or another heart study to determine whether she has any calcifications or blockages.
Speaking of symptoms, women don't always have the classic Hollywood heart attack, where one hand comes up to the chest - think Fred Sanford in "Sanford and Son" (Yes, I am dating myself.) Instead, a heart problem may just first look like unusual tiredness, pain in the stomach, arms and neck or just shortness of breath. The biggest defense it to make sure you are thinking about it, along with Mom. I have heard countless stories where a woman, thinking it was indigestion or fatigue, ignored symptoms that turned into a devastating heart attack.
Next Monday, Laura Bush is giving me an exclusive interview about issues related to women's health. She has made this part of her wide platform as first lady, including the national "Red Dress" campaign, which serves as a visual reminder that this disease robs us of half a million sisters, daughters and yes, mothers - every single year.
After six years in my job, I am always surprised that we are still telling people about this relationship between heart disease and women. Is it not as sexy to talk about as other health care conditions? Does women's heart disease need stronger and louder advocates? There are doctors who believe we can eliminate heart disease in women with what we already know, but the first step is getting women checked out. How do we get there? Also, any questions you would like me to ask Laura Bush next week?
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