The "fear factor"
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Having a heart problem represents a dramatic change for a woman.  Instead of looking out for the other members of her family, she has to start taking better care of herself.  But in many cases, she doesn't.

"Most patients in cardiac rehabilitation programs are men," says Roseanne Chesler, an exercise physiologist at Downstate University Hospital of Brooklyn.  "Some doctors don't refer women to rehab programs; in other instances, women aren't interested."

Ms.Chesler believes that the "fear factor" following a heart attack is a lot higher for women than for men.  "Many times, women are afraid to go out shopping for fear that they will have another heart attack outside their home," she explains.

Are you at risk?

There are several important risk factors you should be aware of.  These include a family history of heart disease, your age, cholesterol level, and lifestyle ( see "An ounce of prevention" below to learn how you can reduce some of these risks).

If you suspect you are at risk, it is important to be screened for cardiac disease.  You can receive a free evaluation at University Hospital of Brooklyn.  A special walk-in clinic is held from 1 to 4 p.m. on Wednesdays in the hospital's Outpatient Department, 470 Clarkson Avenue, Suite C.  If you have any questions about the screening, you may call 718-270-2020 during normal business hours.

Our team of physicians, nurse educators, and other health professionals can identify your risk factors and help design a healthy plan for living."When it comes to heart disease, the sooner you take control of your health, the better," says Dr.Clark.  "Too many women learn they have a problem after their health has already been compromised."

An ounce of prevention

You've probably heard people say, "When I had my heart attack, it hit me without warning."  This is often true.   Also, about 25 percent of heart attacks are silent, and these heart attacks can be just as deadly.

This makes it all the more important to prevent a heart attack in the first place.  If you have a family history of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, or high cholesterol levels, you should realize that you are at risk.

On average, heart problems appear at an older age for women than for men.   The risk of a heart attack rises significantly after menopause.  That is when your body stops producing the female hormone estrogen, which doctors believe protects women against heart disease.

The most important thing to know about heart disease is that all people can reduce their risk of having a heart attack.  Here's how:

Quit smoking

Smoking is by far the greatest risk factor for heart disease.  Women who smoke double their risk of having a heart attack, and smokers are more likely to die from a heart attack.

Control hypertension and diabetes

Both hypertension and diabetes greatly increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.  Both diseases can go undetected for many years, silently destroying the body, particularly the cardiovascular system.  Your doctor may recommend medicines to control these diseases, as well as lifestyle changes.

Slim down

Obesity contributes to both hypertension and diabetes.   If you are 30 percent above your ideal weight- especially if you carry most of this extra weight around the midsection- you increase your chances of having a heart attack or stroke, even if you have no other risk factors.

Eat right

You can't lose weight overnight.  Strive for a slow, steady weight loss by reducing calories and switching from fatty foods like butter, ice cream, potato chips, and red meat to fruit and vegetables.  Not only are these foods rich in fiber, they are also good sources for vitamins A,C, and E, which may provide protection against heart disease.

Reduce cholesterol

Have your cholesterol levels checked.  The first step in reducing high cholesterol is to improve your diet.  Eliminate fatty foods and your cholesterol levels will be substantially reduced.  There are also medications your doctor can prescribe.  For  every percentage drop in cholesterol, there is a 2 percent drop in risk for heart attack.


Regular exercise, such as walking, can reduce your risk of a heart attack.  One recent study found that by walking 30 to 45 minutes three days a week, older women can reduce their risk by 50 percent.  A ten-year Harvard study found that regular physical activity helps women control high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and stress.

Enjoy life

Stress raises your blood pressure, and unusually high levels of stress may trigger a heart attack.  Take stock of your life and identify sources of anxiety.  Take stock of your life and identify sources of anxiety.   Relaxation techniques or counseling may help.  So will focusing on those things that bring you happiness or a sense of accomplishment.

For further information about heart disease prevention, please call Kristy Pang, our nurse educator, at 718-270-1104, or call the American Heart Association at 1-800-AHA-USA1.

Ace of hearts

Dr. Gerald Deas, director of health education communication at Downstate, advises his patents to think of the ACE of Hearts when it comes to a healthy heart.  "To keep your heart in ACE condition, get plenty of Vitamins A (beta-carotene), C, and E," he explains.  "There is increasing   scientific evidence that these vitamins known as antioxidants, reduce the risk of heart disease."  Good sources of Vitamin A are yellow and red vegetables and melons.  Citrus fruits are rich in Vitamin C, and rains, like oats and wheat's, when eaten daily, can provide all the Vitamin E you need.

For more information about University Hospital of Brooklyn
and its services, please call (718) 270-4762

For a referral to a Health Science Center at Brooklyn physician,
please call toll free 1-888-270-SUNY