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HEALTH WATCH: Heart disease is the number one killer of women

Heart disease is the number one killer among women in the US.
Channel Three's Kathyrn Daniel meets a recovering cardiac patient who is out to change that grim statistic in tonight's Health Watch Report.

Laura McMichael says she was feeling sorta "weird".
"I thought, I'm getting older. I'm outa shape, I'm not exercising like I should."

McMichael says she felt lightheaded, would turn pale, get out of breath easily.

She says she thought she just had bad indigestion.  Turns out she didn't have heart burn but heart failure.

"If I hadn't of done this, I wouldn't be here to talk with you cause I had a 95-percent blockage."

McMichael had a series of heart stints put in.  None worked out long term.
On McMichael's 60th birthday--she had bypass surgery.

After three and half months recovery she feels better than ever and is an advocate for Heart Health Awareness for women.

"My symptoms weren't what I would expect to have you know, for a heart attack.  Major chest pains and stuff like that. They're different in women.  A lot different than what they are in men."

Exactly the message Interventional Cardiologist Charles Mayes shares with his female patients early--and often.
 
"Women are special and we ought to treat them specifically."
Mayes says for men -- heart risk is gradual and cumulative.

"For women, there's a dramatic change that occurs where you become post-menopausal, so your risk profile starts to really take off."

Mayes says estrogen and other female hormones protect the cardio system.  After menopause, women are much more vulnerable for heart problems need to be especially aware of female oriented symptoms, which can be vague.

"Sharp pain, maybe it's an electrical type sensation, maybe instead of pain you have some vague shortness of breath."

Mayes says his women patients often mistake heart attack symptoms for digestive problems.
He says everyone starting in their thirties should know where they stand on the controllable heart risk factors: cholesterol level, blood pressure, diabetes..

Mayes says all patients should keep a healthy handle on those.  Genetics is the one we can't control but knowing family history can help with prevention and intervention.   

McMichael says she knew heart disease ran very heavily all over her family  but was still shocked by her diagnosis.

"Surprised.  I had no clue.  None what so ever."
McMichael says she's exercising, eating properly and paying close attention to what her body is telling her...

"If you want to be around to enjoy your family, you have to do that."
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