Healthwatch: Focus on Heart Disease

February is National Heart Month. In keeping with that theme, Healthwatch takes a look at the number one killer in the U.S.

Physicians say heart disease can be prevented and treated. Dr. Jennifer Rodriguez, a cardiologist at Rush in Meridian, said the most important thing is to first know the main risk factors, which include: smoking, being overweight, suffering from disorders such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes, and knowing whether or not it runs in your family.

Dr. Rodriguez said these are all things that can contribute to plaque building up in any of the arteries that lead to or those that are actually inside the heart.

"They don't open when they should," said Rodriguez. "They don't bust clots when they should, and all of these things together is the perfect storm for having a heart attack."

Currently one out of every three women who dies in America, dies from heart disease. When it comes to having a heart attack, Dr. Rodriguez says usually the symptoms are different for women than men.

"So, they're more likely to feel A-typical symptoms. They may not feel that chest pressure. Maybe they'll feel something more in the neck or jaw or down the arm," she said.

Rodriguez said this is unlike men who often report feeling a tightening of the chest during an attack.

To prevent these symptoms, Dr. Rodriguez says it's important to quit smoking, get active, and go to the doctor regularly to check for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.

"Because if you can control these diseases, you can decrease the risks for heart attacks," Rodriguez said.

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