What Do Women Need? A Good Heart!

Although this message is for anyone at increased risk for heart disease, it is especially directed to ladies because the incidence and resultant mortality rate is so high for women.
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One of my greatest passions as a family physician is safeguarding the health and well being of my patients. The current day negativity about healthcare will not interfere with my goals of providing the best care for all patients that I serve. I take a personal interest in each patient and try to go beyond simply fixing their ailments. In short, I take the time to get to know them, and consequently, I have been able to establish rapport and trust. This is tantamount to excellent medical service as part of my philosophy of the role of physicians in patients' lives. Rapid advances in technology since I completed my residency have allowed me to practice medicine with increased precision and efficiency with the benefit of more time to educate and compassionately interact with each patient.

Technological change continues to occur and in spite of it, sadly, women still disproportionately suffer from heart disease. In fact, heart disease is America's number one killer! This malady is also the most prevalent cause of death for women. It is responsible for 1 in 3 deaths each year, killing approximately one woman every minute and devastates families. As a doctor and father to a beautiful little girl, coupled with concern for patients and families, this problem is especially troubling. Daily, I learn of hard-working women who, in an effort to nurture family members, neglect the warning signs of heart disease: shortness of breath, extreme fatigue, upper back pressure, pressure or pain in the upper chest or lower abdomen, dizziness and/or fainting. Often, women ignore these symptoms until it's too late. Fear of the unknown, lack of time to see a doctor, or caring for family members are some reasons most cited for women's failure to acknowledge these signs of illness. This is extremely unfortunate as a significant number of heart attacks as well as strokes can be treated and possibly prevented with more attention to the most important possession of all: one's health.

The month of February is American Heart Month and in my role as a national spokesperson for the American Heart Association, I have presented information in practically all forms of social and traditional media to raise awareness about heart disease. These messages may have fallen on deaf ears because listeners may not experience symptoms, they don't recognize they symptoms they have as warning signs, or they are too busy with life's daily tasks. (Ladies, in addition to "Going Red" this month, please take the time to pay attention to yourselves precisely because of those of you who spend so much time caring for others. They would be devastated should you be struck by this dreaded disease.)

Take the time to make simple lifestyle changes that done over time with consistency can provide continued focus on a healthy life. It's a new year and I'm sure many ladies were well intentioned in January. Gym memberships increased along with resolutions to lose weight, exercise more often and eat healthily. New Year's resolutions often lose steam by February with many people succumbing to the pressures of life -- consuming high-calorie comfort foods, drinking more alcoholic beverages and ignoring physical fitness activities. Before you know it the old behaviors have reared their ugly heads and a sense of failure looms over you. Focusing on one behavior at a time is better than a laundry list of resolutions bound to fail in the short run. Changing behaviors takes time and patience, but it can be done!

Although this message is for anyone at increased risk for heart disease, it is especially directed to ladies because the incidence and resultant mortality rate is so high for women. Please literally take this to HEART: the road to health is a journey not a sprint and implementing small, simple, sustainable changes can build a strong foundation for wellness and longevity.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the American Heart Association's Go Red For Women in recognition of National Wear Red Day (Feb. 6, 2015), the aim of which is to raise awareness that today women are more likely than men have heart disease or a stroke, and 1 in 3 will die. But 80 percent of cardiac events can be prevented with education and lifestyle changes. To read all the stories in the series, visit here. And to follow the conversation on Twitter -- and share a picture of yourself wearing red -- find the hashtag #GoRedSelfie.