Heart disease is still the No. 1 cause of death among women in the U.S.
In our first issue of “Get Healthy” magazine, we published an article asking women to take charge of their heart health. One decade later, that important message remains, as heart disease is still the No. 1 cause of death among women in the U.S.
In that first issue we met Marcia Algee, then age 53. She could have been a statistic, but her life was saved after a routine screening showed a heart abnormality that led her to undergo double bypass surgery.
“I never had chest pain or any other typical warning signs,” Algee said at that time. “I had no idea my heart was in the condition it was.”
That’s the message cardiologist Janet L. Smith, M.D., director, and Theresa Byrd, R.N., coordinator of the Norton Women’s Heart & Vascular Center, have been working to instill in women over the past decade — heart disease is different in women than in men. Women must be aware of their heart health numbers, how to live a heart-healthy lifestyle and the warning signs of heart attack.
“Women need to know where they’re starting to know where they need to go,” Byrd said. “By keeping track of cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and waist circumference numbers, we can make a plan to reduce heart disease risk in the future through a healthy lifestyle.”
Today, at age 63, Algee stays on top of her heart health. She has dealt with other health issues since the last time we spoke with her, but she makes sure she visits the Norton Women’s Heart & Vascular Center at least once a year for a checkup.
“I’ve learned that getting old certainly isn’t for sissies!” Algee said. “I’ve had some heart rhythm issues that are now back in sync, and I am managing diabetes.”
Now retired, Algee recognizes she was under a lot of stress when her heart issues began 10+ years ago. She was caring for her mother and working 10 hours a day at Ford. She didn’t have a whole lot of time for herself and got only three to four hours of sleep a night.
“Marcia is not alone. These types of barriers to a heart-healthy lifestyle are some of the most common reasons women come to us,” Byrd said. “Marcia is like so many women we meet, dealing with major life stressors. But the key is education — the sooner you know your risk factors for heart disease, you can make changes before it’s too late.”
With more time to take care of herself, Algee looks forward to daily walks with two poodles she adores and spending time with her two grandchildren, ages 5 and 16 months.
Though the past decade has seen an increase in awareness about the seriousness of heart disease in women, there is still work to do, especially among minorities, who tend to have higher rates of heart disease than Caucasians.
“Women are more aware of the significance of heart disease today but still have further to go in recognizing the warning signs of heart attack and that they should call 911 if they experience warning signs,” Dr. Smith said.
About our caregivers
Theresa Byrd, R.N., sees patients at the Norton Women’s Heart & Vascular Center, Norton Medical Plaza 2 – St. Matthews, Suite 103, 3991 Dutchmans Lane, Louisville, KY 40207; (502) 899-6961
Janet L. Smith, M.D., practices at Norton Cardiovascular Associates – The Springs, The Springs Medical Center, Suite 200, 6420 Dutchmans Parkway, Louisville, KY 40205; (502) 891-8300
Do you know the warning signs of a heart attack?
- Shortness of breath
- Upper back pressure
- Pressure in the center of the chest, like squeezing or fullness
- Pain in one or both arms, neck, jaw or stomach
- Nausea or vomiting
- Cold sweat
If you have any of these symptoms, don’t wait more than five minutes before calling 911. Get to a hospital right away.