Heart disease is the leading cause of death among American women. American Heart Association spokeswoman Dr. Nieca Goldberg says women often don't recognize the symptoms of a heart attack, because they are different from the symptoms men experience.
"Instead of it being pressure in the center of the chest, women can experience breathlessness without any chest pressure or a pressure lower down in the chest, and many women believe it is a stomachache," she says. "But clearly these are warning signs if a woman has never felt these before that she should get herself checked out."
In a campaign to raise awareness about the problem, Dr. Goldberg says the American Heart Association has developed the Heart-O-Scope, an interactive web-based tool to assess the risk of cardiac disease among women. "It's a tool that women can use to plug in their numbers such as the cholesterol or blood pressure and their number for what their blood sugar was," she says. "It also allows women to develop a personal action plan, and we encourage women to share this information with their doctors."
The idea, says Dr. Goldberg, is to empower women to take action to reduce the risk of heart disease for themselves and their families, through diet and exercise or with a combination of medication, diet and exercise. The Heart-O-Scope is online at www.goredforwomen.org. A separate scoring sheet is available for men.