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What women need to
know about heart disease

Doris Jones knew something was wrong.  She kept waking up in the middle of the night, wheezing.  Her stomach felt heavy, and so did her arms.  When she tried to dress herself in the morning, she had to pause to catch her breath.

After three days, she called Rosa Julien, a nurse she knew at University Hospital of Brooklyn, where she was being treated for high blood pressure.  Ms.  Jones was told to come in right away.

Doctors quickly diagnosed the problem: two arteries feeding blood to her heart were blocked.  They recommended balloon angioplasty instead of open heart surgery to reopen the blocked vessels.

The procedure was a success, and Ms.  Jones, who is 67, is now working to get her blood pressure down.

Heart disease
kills more women
than men

"Most people still believe that heart disease is a man's disease," says Dr.  Luther Clark, chief of cardiology at University Hospital of Brooklyn, the teaching hospital of the State University of New York Health Science Center at Brooklyn, better known as Downstate.   "But each year, heart disease kills more women than men."

Although the signs of heart disease -    shortness of breath, chest pains, palpitation, dizziness - are similar for both sexes, women often believe their symptoms are caused by heartburn, gall bladder problems, or temporary stress.  They don't recognize it for what it really is.

What makes matters worse, says Dr.  Clark, is that symptoms of heart disease are sometimes misinterpreted in women, and when finally diagnosed, their condition is often already serious.

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African American woman are at a greater risk

While the number of deaths from heart disease has declined among the general population during the last three decades, black women have a greater risk of dying from heart disease than white women.  They have a 33 percent higher death rate from coronary heart disease than white women, and 77 percent greater mortality from stroke.

What are the reasons for this difference?  Experts aren't sure, but they point to several likely causes.  African-Americans are more likely to suffer diabetes, obesity, and hypertension, and are less likely to have access to quality health care than whites.

 

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