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Top 5 Heart Health Tips for Women Leading Female Cardiovascular Experts from Mount Sinai Heart Share Advice in Celebration of February’s American Heart Month and National Go Red Day Friday, February 5

Newswise — NEW YORK (February 1, 2016) – February is American Heart Month, with Friday, February 5 marking the celebration of the American Heart Association’s National Go Red Day to continue to raise awareness for the prevention and treatment of heart disease in women.

Heart disease is the number one killer of women, causing one in three deaths each year—approximately one woman every minute—but many women are unaware of the warning signs and risk factors, which may actually be different from men’s. In fact, just last week the American Heart Association published the first scientific statement regarding gender differences in heart attack symptoms and outcomes.

Leading female cardiovascular experts of Mount Sinai Heart recommend the following top 5 heart health tips for women:

1. Know the Warning Signs and Act Fast

Men and women can both experience the well-known heart attack symptoms like gripping chest pains and cold sweat, but women can also have subtler, less recognizable symptoms such as nausea, shortness of breath and pain or discomfort in the stomach, jaw, neck or back. Therefore, women are often unaware that they’re experiencing a heart attack, and they may not seek the help they need in time.

“Women need to know the warning signs of a heart attack, and react quickly by calling 9-1-1,” said Mary Ann McLaughlin, MD, Medical Director of the Cardiac Health Program and Co-Director of the Women's Cardiac Assessment and Risk Evaluation Program at Mount Sinai Heart.

Shockingly, only 65 percent of women said the first thing they would do if they thought they were having a heart attack was to call 9-1-1.

While most female heart attacks occur in post-menopausal women after age 50, they can also affect younger women, and according to the American Heart Association, women age 45 and younger are more likely than men to die within a year of their first heart attack.

2. Knowledge is Prevention – Know Your Numbers & Risk Factors

“Every woman should know her blood pressure, total cholesterol levels, triglyceride level, glucose level and body mass index (BMI)” said Icilma Fergus, MD, Director of the Center for Cardiovascular Disparities at Mount Sinai Heart.

These numbers can be checked during a Well-Woman Visit—a preventative yearly check-up by a doctor to asses a woman’s overall health. Dr. Fergus also recommends women find out about their family history of heart disease, and discuss that and any other risk factors they may have with their doctor. To put this knowledge into action, Dr. Fergus recommends lifestyle modifications, self-awareness and self-management as the first steps to preventing heart disease.

3. Eat and Drink to Your Heart

“Eating a healthy diet year-round is critical to preventing heart disease,” said Beth Oliver, DNP, RN, Senior Vice President of Cardiac Services for Mount Sinai Heart. “Eat lots of colorful fruits and vegetables, up your fiber intake, eat more fish instead of red meat, and avoid foods with high-saturated fats, high-sodium, high-sugar, and those that are highly-processed. Also, drink plenty of water, and limit sugary drinks, sodas and alcohol.”

The American Heart Association recommends no more than one drink per day for women, whether it’s a glass of wine, beer, shot of liquor, or a mixed cocktail drink.

“Drinking excessively or binge drinking can increase your blood pressure, triglycerides, increase your heart rate or cause dangerous heart rhythms, and can even lead to heart failure or cause a stroke,” said Oliver. “Excess alcohol can also lead to increased calorie consumption, leading to unhealthy weight gain or even obesity, and may even increase your risk of developing diabetes.”

4. Exercise and Maintain a Healthy Weight and Waist

“Exercise is necessary to lower your risk of heart attacks, strokes, maintain your blood pressure, cholesterol, and also prevent diabetes and obesity,” said Lori Croft, MD, Associate Professor of Cardiology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “Just 30 minutes a day of brisk walking can help keep your heart healthy.”

Dr. Croft also notes that belly fat is more dangerous to your heart health than excess fat on other parts of the body. Women with a waist circumference of more than 35 inches are at a higher risk of developing heart disease and metabolic syndrome. It is also critical to maintain a normal BMI, which is between 18.5–24.9; more than 25 is overweight, and 30 or greater is obese.

5. Don’t Smoke

“Smoking tobacco is the number one risk factor for women to develop atherosclerosis and vascular diseases such as dangerous aneurysms, heart failure, carotid artery disease, or peripheral arterial disease which causes blockages in the arms and legs,” said Johanna Contreras, MD, MSc, Assistant Professor of Cardiology, Heart Failure and Cardiac Transplant at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “Often, aneurysms have no signs or symptoms before they strike, and smoking can cause them get larger and rupture with severe consequences.”

Smoking cigarettes is hazardous to your heart health, since it decreases the strength of your artery walls. Vascular medicine experts are urging everyone not to start smoking, and those who currently smoke to kick the habit immediately by joining a smoking cessation program.

About the Mount Sinai Health SystemThe Mount Sinai Health System is an integrated health system committed to providing distinguished care, conducting transformative research, and advancing biomedical education. Structured around seven hospital campuses and a single medical school, the Health System has an extensive ambulatory network and a range of inpatient and outpatient services—from community-based facilities to tertiary and quaternary care.

The System includes approximately 6,100 primary and specialty care physicians; 12 joint-venture ambulatory surgery centers; more than 140 ambulatory practices throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, Long Island, and Florida; and 31 affiliated community health centers. Physicians are affiliated with the renowned Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, which is ranked among the highest in the nation in National Institutes of Health funding per investigator. The Mount Sinai Hospital is ranked as one of the nation’s top 10 hospitals in Geriatrics, Cardiology/Heart Surgery, and Gastroenterology, and is in the top 25 in five other specialties in the 2015-2016 “Best Hospitals” issue of U.S. News & World Report. Mount Sinai’s Kravis Children’s Hospital also is ranked in seven out of ten pediatric specialties by U.S. News & World Report. The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai is ranked 11th nationally for Ophthalmology, while Mount Sinai Beth Israel is ranked regionally.

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