Education is the key when it comes to heart health for women.

That’s what Dr. Anita D’Mello told the audience at the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women luncheon held Friday at the McAlester Country Club.

“Health is not our top priority,” she said, noting she has heard so many women tell her the same things such as “I have so many responsibilities. I’m too stressed, I’m too busy, I’m too tired. I can’t go for a walk, I can’t even cook.”

So, they go out to eat or call for takeouts, D’Mello said. “I hear this all the time.”

And that’s not good, she said. Women also tend to ignore symptoms of heart pain more than men because the symptoms for women are different.

“When men have heart pain, they have pain under the breastbone and down the left arm. They have shortness of breath and they sweat,” she noted.

A woman’s pain may happen anywhere — including the neck, back, chest or jaw.

Some women even complain about teeth pain. They may also start sweating or feeling clammy.

D’Mello said women will also go to the emergency room one or two hours later than a man. And with a woman’s symptoms, they may be told they just have anxiety or experiencing stress or heartburn.

“We have excellent doctors here in McAlester,” D’Mello said. They will take the patient’s history and do the necessary tests, she added. “Nationally it is different.”

Women may not even have to take an angiogram or go to the next level with a stint or bypass.

Women need to become more assertive with doctors, D’Mello said. Women need to tell their doctors that they want the necessary tests.

She said some of the risk factors for heart disease are not modifiable. These include genetics and age.

Members of the audience also took a test. D’Mello asked them to ask themselves, “Do I smoke? What is my blood pressure? What is my cholesterol? What is my blood sugar? What is my weight and my waist?”

D’Mello said the ideal blood pressure should be less than 120/80. Cholesterol levels should be less than 200. The LDL, bad cholesterol, should be less than 130 and the HDL, good cholesterol, should be in the 60s.

She noted women with diabetes run a higher chance of heart disease than men. She urged the audience to have their blood sugar tested. A blood sugar of 125 or higher indicates diabetes, she said.

Then there are the issues of weight and waist size. “Obesity is an epidemic in America,” she said. “Health has got to be our top priority.”

To help keep all these levels within the normal range, D’Mello said women should exercise 30 to 45 minutes each day — which includes walking — eat healthy and lose weight.

“We’re going to love our hearts,” she said. “We’re going to eat healthy, exercise regularly, check our blood sugar and cholesterol.

“And we’re going to be healthier people.”

Abby Fisher, with the Beef Council of Oklahoma, which is a major sponsor of the luncheons, noted there are 29 cuts of beef that are considered lean. She said to look for the words “loin” or “round” in the name of the meat. “You can Go Red at the meat counter,” she said.

After the meal, Sara Branscum, a professional chef from Oklahoma City, showed how to make two different heart healthy dishes using beef. She also gave helpful tips and hints on cooking in healthier manner and urged the audience to love lean beef.

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