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Heart disease is health risk for women of any age

Community news | Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Contact: John Broom

More than 200 women, dressed in an array of red, turned out for the 10th Annual ACMC Women’s Heart Health Luncheon.

The three-hour event featured shopping at 15 vendors, door prizes, a heart-healthy meal and presentation by Cleveland Clinic Cardiologist Hari Dandapantula, MD, who practices full-time at ACMC.

"I am sorry to say physicians have not done women justice. We have not adequately explained the risk of heart attack and heart problems among women," he said, before spending more than 30 minutes explaining the exact risk to women and ways to decrease those risks.

"Physicians do a good job warning women of the risk of breast cancer, but women will die from heart disease than will die from the top four cancers combined," he said. "Heart disease is not just an old man’s disease. Women of any age are at risk." Dr. Dandapantula said there is a common belief that young women or women who stay thin and exercise throughout their life are not at risk for developing heart disease. That belief is false.

He said the simplest definition of Coronary heart disease is that the heart does not get enough nutrient-rich blood, and there are many reasons that can happen. Some of risk factors can be controlled, others cannot.

Those risk factors include:

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Overweight/Obesity
  • Physical inactivity
  • Diabetes
  • Family history of early heart disease

Dr. Dandapantula said the best course of action, for a woman of any age, is to begin lifestyle changes that can prevent or control heart disease.

"The good news is that by improving your lifestyle in one of these areas, you will also see improvement in another," he said. For example, if you stop smoking, you're likely to lower your blood pressure. If you increase the amount of physical activity, you're likely to lose weight, lower your blood pressure, and lower your cholesterol. He advised the women that they can start small and still benefit.

He added that all women 40 or older should ask their doctor about their personal risk of heart disease.

"Make a list of questions before you visit. Write down or record what you and your doctor discuss. Be honest about your lifestyle behaviors and together you can begin to lessen your risk of heart disease," he said.

Dr. Dandapantula suggested three immediate changes that will bring about a life-long health improvement.

"Begin today. I can't tell you how many people tell me they will start tomorrow. Don't wait. Start today. Stop smoking. Be physically active and follow a healthy eating plan," he said.

Dr. Dandapantula said women who have not engaged in physical activity in many years can begin slowly and build up to the recommended amount of time.

"If you can only walk on the treadmill or exercise for one minute today, aim for two minutes tomorrow. Work your way up to 30-40 minutes of moderate- intensity exercise most days of the week," he said.

Make heart smart food choices. Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables each day and two servings of oily fish (salmon, trout, or herring) each week.

Dr. Dandapantula also suggested talking with family and friends about heart disease and encouraging them to hold you accountable.

"Your doctor or nurse practitioner is your mentor, but your friends or family can also be a source of encouragement. Statistics show that when we have others helping us, we do better with our health," he said.

Dr. Dandapantula sees patients full-time at Ashtabula County Medical Center, alongside fellow Cleveland Clinic Cardiologists Perry Fleisher, MD, Adriana Rosario, MD, and Greg Wood, DO. Cardiology Nurse Practitioner Ben Meola is also available to see patients.

To schedule an appointment with a cardiologist, call 440.994.7622.