Answering your questions on heart health


It was my pleasure to answer your questions about women’s heart health during the social media live chat on Feb. 18, 2015, as part of UT Southwestern’s Heart Month activities.

If you weren’t able to join us, here’s a recap of the social media chat:

What are the symptoms of a heart attack?

Common symptoms of a heart attack include chest discomfort (chest tightness, squeezing, pressure, or fullness in the center or left side of your chest), often associated with shortness of breath, sweating, and/or nausea and vomiting. Symptoms can radiate to the arm or back. 

Are the symptoms of a heart attack different for women?

Women most often present with symptoms similar to those in men; however, they can also present with atypical symptoms of jaw pain, abdominal pain, fatigue, dizziness, or shortness of breath. Some women have no symptoms at all.

When should I be worried about chest pain?

The presence of chest pain should raise concerns when it occurs with exertion, doesn’t resolve with rest, and is associated with sweating, nausea, dizziness, or radiation of pain. 

What is congestive heart failure?

In order to function, your heart has to fill with blood and then pump blood out to the rest of your body. Heart failure means that your heart is having trouble handling the blood properly. Either it is not filling efficiently or it is not pumping it out properly. Congestive heart failure occurs when fluid builds up in the body, usually in the lungs, abdomen, and legs.

What is angina, and what are the symptoms?

Angina is chest discomfort that occurs due to poor blood flow through the blood vessels in the heart. It usually occurs with exercise or emotional stress and resolves with rest.

What are the signs of a stroke in women?

Signs of a stroke include the sudden onset of numbness or weakness on one side of the body (in the face, arms, or legs), confusion, trouble speaking, blurred vision, difficulty walking, or a severe headache with no known cause.

Remember the acronym FAST:

  • F – Face Drooping: Does one side of the face droop? Ask the person to smile.
  • A – Arm Weakness: Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift down or seem weaker than the other?
  • S – Speech Difficulty: Is the speech slurred? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Is the sentence repeated correctly?
  • T – Time to call 911: If the person shows any of these symptoms, call 911 or get to a hospital immediately. Time loss is brain loss.

What are some heart-healthy tips?

The American Heart Association has put together “Life’s Simple 7,” a list of seven things you can do to keep your heart healthy. Any person can make these changes; the steps are not expensive to take, and even modest improvements to your health will make a big difference. Visit to see how you’re measuring up. 

Do you have any tips for heart-healthy foods or recipes?

  • Eat a diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Add a handful of nuts (almonds, walnuts, or hazelnuts) to your diet.
  • Eat an avocado every day. 
  • Consider following the Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to help prevent death from heart disease. 

What is the difference between angina and a heart attack?

Angina is the chest discomfort that someone feels when his or her heart is not getting enough oxygen. It can be because of a partially or completely blocked blood vessel. A heart attack means the blood vessel is completely blocked and the heart is not getting any blood flow or oxygen. This means that heart cells are dying.

What are risk factors for heart disease?

We like to think of risk factors as modifiable or non-modifiable. Non-modifiable risk factors are things we CAN’T change, such as age, sex, or family history of heart disease. Modifiable risk factors are things we CAN change, such as cholesterol levels, blood pressure, weight, physical activity, and blood sugar.

There also are risk factors that are unique to women such as pregnancy complications and polycystic ovarian syndrome. Other risk factors that affect women are autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, and radiation therapy for breast cancer.

What can I do to lower my risk of heart disease?

70 percent to 80 percent of your risk of heart disease can be prevented by following “Life’s Simple 7,” as explained by the American Heart Association:
  • Get active
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Stop smoking
  • Control your cholesterol
  • Manage your blood pressure
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Keep your blood sugar under control

For women over age 30, one of the biggest risk factors is a sedentary lifestyle. It’s important to get moving!

Please keep in mind that my answers are purely informational and do not constitute medical advice. If you need to schedule an appointment for personalized consultation, please call 214-645-8300 or fill out the Request an Appointment form.