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February is American Heart Health Month

Havre, Montana – Should you find yourself at Northern Montana Hospital on a Friday this month, you’ll see red. Lots of red. The employees of Northern Montana Health Care; including the Northern Montana Care Center, Northern Montana Medical Groups and the Northern Montana Vision Center, will be wearing red to bring attention to American Heart Health Month and the “Go Red for Women” movement.

Every year, about 715,000 Americans have a heart attack. About 600,000 people die from heart disease in the United States each year—that’s 1 out of every 4 deaths. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women.

The term “heart disease” refers to several types of heart conditions. The most common type in the United States is coronary heart disease, which occurs when a substance called plaque builds up in the arteries that supply blood to the heart. Coronary heart disease can cause heart attack, angina, heart failure, and arrhythmias.

Ten years ago, the American Heart Association discovered that heart disease actually killed more women than men. And it took more women’s lives than all forms of cancer combined. So they created “Go Red for Women”; a movement dedicated to educating millions of women on the dangers of heart disease. Another of their goals was to make major changes in health care. And it’s working.

Statistics from the American Heart Association show that 34% fewer women now die from heart disease. Awareness of heart disease has increased, and more especially, how it affects women. Heart diseases vary by ethnicity, and each race has its own unique challenges. But efforts like “Go Red” have enabled the American Heart Association to better reach their target audiences.

Heart disease also affects women and men differently and the “Go Red” movement has helped both with the public’s perception of heart attack symptoms and physician’s recognizing the differences in treatment options. Women were traditionally under-represented in clinical studies, but the FDA now reports results based on gender.

Dr. Rudo Ambayi, Internal Medicine Provider at Northern Montana Health Care reports, “The five major symptoms of a heart attack are: Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back; feeling weak, light-headed, or faint; chest pain or discomfort; pain or discomfort in arms or shoulder; and a shortness of breath. “

“But women tend to present with vague or less-typical symptoms, such as: Upper back pain or shoulder pain; pain or discomfort in upper body including arms, left shoulder, back, neck, jaw or stomach; pressure in the center of the chest; sweating; light-headedness or dizziness; nausea; or unusual fatigue. Not having chest pain can make it harder to both the woman and her doctor to recognize a heart attack. Because doctors normally work based on a level of suspicion, these differences are important to note. “, adds Dr. Ambayi.

The situation is alarming, but there is good news—heart disease is preventable and controllable. Individuals can start by taking small steps every day to bring their loved ones and themselves closer to heart health. Eating a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight can go a long ways towards prevention. Regular exercise, monitoring blood pressure, checking your cholesterol, managing diabetes and taking prescribed medications correctly are also great steps.

And wearing red. Because the more these issues are talked about, the more people know the important details.  For more information, visit the American Heart Association’s

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