Understand the symptoms of heart disease

Published 9:18 am Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Column: Hometown Health, by Sandra Birchem

February is National Heart Disease awareness month and Feb. 1 is “Wear Red” day to help increase awareness of women and heart disease since it affects so many lives and can go unrecognized by women and medical professionals.

Sandra Birchem

Women oftentimes will have more subtle or different symptoms with heart disease than men and often these symptoms show later in the course of their disease. This is one of the reasons heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women.

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Heart disease symptoms

• Chest, neck, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort

• Shortness of breath

• Nausea or vomiting

• Sweating

• Fatigue with exertion

Not everyone will experience the same symptoms and, most importantly, do not ignore these symptoms if they occur. If you have concerns you should seek medical attention to determine the cause.

Heart disease risk factors

• Family history of heart disease or stroke in mother, father, brothers, sisters

• Smoking

• Diabetes

• High blood pressure

• High cholesterol (LDL, HDL, triglycerides)

• Metabolic syndrome — a combination of fat around your abdomen, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high triglycerides

• Mental stress and depression

• Low levels of estrogen after menopause pose a significant risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease in the smaller blood vessels (small vessel heart disease)

Sandra Birchem, D.O., is a Mayo Clinic cardiologist practicing at Mayo Clinic Health System of Albert Lea and Austin and Mayo Clinic Health System in Owatonna. To schedule an appointment with her, please call 379-2151.