Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of American women, regardless of race or ethnicity. It kills one of every four women in the U.S. and results in three times more deaths than cancer.
While attendees of the 5th Annual Women’s Heart Health Luncheon hosted May 11 at St. Joseph Medical Center were informed of the hard facts about heart disease, they also learned it can be prevented or controlled. The annual luncheon was presented by Women of Wellness, a St. Joseph health and social program to empower women as healthcare consumers by providing educational information and social events that celebrate women’s roles in their own wellness.
Jaime Benrey, M.D., a cardiologist on the medical staff of St. Joseph, presented heart health information to the audience and described the human heart as the most dependable pump in the world.
“The average heart beats 70 times per minute and that’s about 100,000 times a day,” said Dr. Benrey. “It is an incredible hard-working muscle, so let’s protect it. All of the risk factors for heart disease can be prevented, except for genetic factors.”
Dr. Benrey said that hypertension, or high blood pressure, is the most common symptom for heart disease and urged women to check their blood pressure often because their arteries are smaller than men’s and can clog faster. High blood pressure risk factors include obesity, drinking too much alcohol, smoking, and family history. Beta-blockers are a common treatment for hypertension, said Dr. Benrey.
He advised women in particular to recognize the signs of a heart attack, which are different than the symptoms experienced by men, and may include any or all of the following:
• Chest pain or discomfort
• Upper back or neck pain
• Nausea and vomiting
• Extreme fatigue
• Upper body discomfort
• Shortness of breath
Dr. Benrey stressed that individuals experiencing these signs must call 9-1-1 immediately and wait for an ambulance to treat and then transport them to the emergency room.
“There is a 90-minute window in which to restore blood flow to save the heart muscle,” said Dr. Benrey. “The first line of treatment for a heart attack is angioplasty, in which the doctor threads a thin tube with a tiny balloon on the end through a blood vessel. When the tube is in place, the doctor inflates the balloon to widen the artery and restore blood flow.”
The best thing to do is have a heart-to-heart with your doctor, said Dr. Benrey.
“Discuss your risk of heart disease, have a list of questions to ask before your visit, and tell your doctor about your lifestyle so you can understand your risks and what you can do about them,” he said. “Once a woman is older than 45, her risk of heart attack is equal to that of a man. So learn what you can do to lessen your risk today.”
Center for Learning Nurse Educator Maria “Tet” Ontoy provided a demonstration of hands-only CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation. She reviewed the steps to take if someone is having a heart attack.
“Hands-Only CPR has just two easy steps, performed in this order,” said Ontoy. “First, if you see an adult or teen suddenly collapse, determine if he or she is unconscious by shaking the shoulders and asking if the person is okay. If there is no response, call 9-1-1 immediately. Then, begin CPR by pushing hard and fast in the center of the person’s chest to the beat of a song that has 100 to 120 beats per minute. Lock your elbows and compress two inches deep making sure to let the chest rise completely between compressions.”
Ontoy said most people know the song “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees and pushing up and down, with stiff arms, on the chest to the beat of the song is the best way to conduct CPR.
“You are basically beating the person’s heart for them, allowing blood to flow throughout the body to reach the crucial organs like the brain. Keep doing the compressions until the person is either conscious, or medical help arrives,” advised Ontoy. Visit heart.org/HandsOnlyCPR to watch an instructional video for CPR by the American Heart Association.
For more information about the Women of Wellness program at St. Joseph Medical Center visit sjmctx.org/wow or call 713-756-5051.