Because heart disease can affect women of any age, Dr. Clara Massey, professor of internal medicine at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, said it is important for all women to know their risks.

“One in three women will die of heart disease,” she said. “Knowledge is power. Partner with your doctor and discuss your risk factors for heart disease.”

According to Dr. Massey, who directs the division of cardiology at USA, about 50 percent of women are unaware that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women worldwide.

“Women tend to believe breast cancer is the ultimate health risk,” she said. “However, for every female that dies of breast cancer, 13 will die of heart disease.”

She said prevention is the best way to combat this potentially devastating disease.

“Education as a part of prevention is key in women because early symptoms are harder to pick up and women tend to dismiss them,” Dr. Massey said. “Two of three women that die of heart disease did not recognize their symptoms prior to the event.”

She recommends focusing on risk factors that are controllable – such as weight, cholesterol and blood pressure – and starting heart-healthy habits early. Bad habits such as smoking multiply any other risks you may have.

Dr. Massey will be speaking at the American Heart Association’s upcoming Go Red for Women symposium, sponsored by the USA Health System. The event will take place Feb. 14, 2012, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Renaissance Riverview Plaza Hotel in downtown Mobile.

At the Go Red event, Dr. Massey will discuss heart disease in women and provide statistics for the nation and the state of Alabama.

Dr. Massey will be joined by Dr. Steve Cordina, assistant professor of neurology and medical director for the USA Stroke Center and Dr. David Lewis, professor and chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology.

Dr. Cordina’s talk will explain how to recognize signs of an impending stroke, and Dr. Lewis will provide new information on high blood pressure and diabetes during pregnancy and how it serves as a predictor of cardiovascular disease with aging.

As part of the "Go Red for Women" campaign against heart disease, the day is set aside for special events to educate and inspire women to take action against the number one killer of women in the United States. In addition to the presentations, the event will include health screenings, educational literature and a luncheon. For more information, visit

“Until recently, it has been difficult to reach women – messages from physicians aren’t enough,” Dr. Massey said. “Women benefit from activities such as Go Red ‘Knowledge is Power’ because it helps empower women with good information, which leads to improved patient outcomes.”

Uncontrollable risk factors:
• Age
• Gender
• Heredity and Race
• Stroke

Controllable risk factors:
• Cholesterol
• Blood pressure
• Smoking
• Physical activity
• Obesity
• Diabetes
• Stress
• Birth control pills
• Alcohol & illegal drugs

For more on risk factors, click here.

Know the symptoms:
• Chest pain or discomfort
• Unusual upper body discomfort
• Shortness of breath
• Breaking out in a cold sweat
• Unusual or unexplained fatigue
• Lightheadedness or sudden dizziness
• Nausea

If you have any one of these symptoms and it lasts for more than five minutes, call 9-1-1.

For more information on being heart healthy at any age, click here.

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