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FOR RELEASE: February 13, 2004
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

The Heart Truth -- Heart Disease is the Leading Killer of Women
February is American Heart Month

The Heart Truth is that heart disease is the leading killer of all Oklahoma women regardless of race or ethnicity, according to officials at the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH). Furthermore, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute reports one in 10 American women ages 45 to 64 have some form of heart disease. After the age of 65, this number increases to one in five in women.

The OSDH Chronic Disease Service is partnering with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to help prevent heart disease by encouraging healthy lifestyles, and educating the public about heart disease through participation in a national campaign called The Heart Truth.

Health officials recommend that women be aware of the signs and symptoms of heart disease, including "classic" chest pain that grips the chest and spreads to the shoulders, neck or arms. Women may have a greater tendency than men to have atypical chest pain or to complain of abdominal pain, mid-back or jaw pain, and/or indigestion, difficulty breathing (dyspnea), nausea, anxiety and unexplained, extreme fatigue.

Some of the risk factors that lead to the development of heart disease are heredity, age, and race - factors that cannot be changed. However, there are areas within your control that can be modified to greatly decrease risk, such as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, cigarette smoking, overweight, physical inactivity, and diabetes.

“Sometimes high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol are called ‘silent killers’ because they go undetected and many people with these diseases do not feel sick or show symptoms. That makes it even more important to get your blood pressure and cholesterol checked regularly by your health care provider,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Mike Crutcher.

The Heart Truth about women’s health in Oklahoma is:

  • Nearly one out of every three adult women in Oklahoma has high blood pressure.
  • Studies show that a higher percentage of women than men have total blood cholesterol of 200mg/dL or higher, beginning at age 50.
  • Nearly one out of every three adult women in Oklahoma has high blood cholesterol.
  • Nearly one of every four adult women in Oklahoma smokes, giving them a two- to six-fold increase in risk of a heart attack.
  • Nearly one in two adult women in Oklahoma are overweight, a risk that contributes to 32 percent of heart disease deaths each year. Proper weight maintenance is another method to control heart disease risk factors.

Some tips to improve women’s health and to help prevent heart attacks include:

  • Have your blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels checked regularly by your health care provider.
  • Reduce blood pressure and blood cholesterol by physical activity such as 30 to 45 minutes of brisk walking most days of the week.
  • Quit smoking, especially during pregnancy, since smokers are three times more likely to deliver a low birth weight baby.
  • Improve nutritional intake by reducing fat intake and increasing the consumption of fiber, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Incorporate low to moderately intense activity into your day, such as gardening, housework, walking, dancing, and aerobic exercise.
  • Lose as little as 10 pounds weight to reduce blood pressure.

For more information about heart disease and monitoring blood pressure and cholesterol levels, contact your health care provider or local county health department. To find out more about The Heart Truth campaign, call the OSDH Chronic Disease Service at 405/271-4072.

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