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Heart Disease Not Just Men's Problem

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DURHAM — Heart disease is the leading cause of death here in the United States. Heart attacks are often associated with men, but most women aren't aware that they face those same dangers.

Duke University Health System held a seminar today to educate women about the dangers of heart disease.

Every 32 seconds, someone in the United States dies as a result of this disease. And, it's a common misconception that women are not at risk for developing heart disease. In fact, twice as many women die each year from heart disease than from all types of cancer combined.

Carol Morrissey says that life is great now, but it wasn't always that way. Three years ago, Morrissey had a heart attack. She was only 53 years old.

Listen toauorreal audiofiles. "I felt this cold air in my chest. I just thought because it was cold outside. Within a few minutes, I started sweating profusely and I felt kind of woosey in the head."

Morrisey is one of the lucky ones. Every year, more than 500,000 women die from heart disease, making it the leading cause of death among women in the United States.

Former U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Joycelyn Elders says part of the problem is that heart disease is typically associated with men rather than women.

Listen toauorreal audiofiles. "First of all, they think we've got indigestion, that there's nothing wrong with our heart, or that we're just having female problems, so we've got to educate our doctors."

And women also need to educate themselves. Elders says you can reduce the risk factors by eating a low-fat, high-fiber diet, getting plenty of exercise, and not smoking.

African-American women are at greater risk for heart disease, mainly because they are more likely to have high blood pressure. But, doctors say it's a good idea for all women to have yearly physicals to catch any potential problems early.

One-third of heart attack victims die before they reach the hospital. Knowing the warning signs can mean the difference between life and death.

But those signs are often hard to detect, especially in women. They include indigestion or heartburn, nausea, profuse sweating, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, and extreme fatigue.

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Julia Lewis, Reporter
Robert Meikle, Photographer
Brian Shrader, Web Editor

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