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Phoenix organization raises awareness about heart disease risks for women

In this Thursday, June 6, 2013, file photo, a patient has her blood pressure checked by a registered nurse in Plainfield, Vt. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)

PHOENIX — In honor of American Heart Month in February, a Phoenix organization is working to get the word out about the challenges facing women when it comes to heart disease.

The American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign aims to empower women and their families to make changes in lifestyle that can help reduce the risk for heart disease.

Christina Noble with Sonora Quest Laboratories, who is also a member of the Go Red for Women Leadership Committee, said 80 percent of cardiac events are preventable, making the group’s mission even more important.

“We believe by working directly with women and getting the word out to women, that we’re really not just helping women, we’re actually helping everyone in the family and in the community,” Noble said.

Noble said over the past 10 years, the mortality rate for women has decreased by 30 percent.

“The efforts of the Go Red for Women campaign is working,” she said. “Women are making commitments to enact positive changes, including exercising, diet changes, regular cholesterol checks and working with their doctors to reduce their risk.”

Dr. Sarika Desai, a cardiologist at Abrazo Arrowhead Campus, said heart disease is the No. 1 killer for women, causing one in three deaths every year, but the symptoms can be ambiguous.

“I think we go to our general practitioners so easily about the flu or cold, but we don’t think about asking our family members as to what are risk factors may be for having heart disease,” she said.

Family history can play a part in a heart disease diagnosis, Desai said, but there are other risk factors like using tobacco or being overweight.

Desai said women can have different symptoms than men when it comes to heart disease, including nausea, abdominal pain and shortness of breath.

“Emotional and physical stress are also big factors in the development and expression of heart disease,” she said. “Whatever that means for an individual, it’s really important to focus on decreasing the stress in our lives.”

Desai said every woman should make it a point to get their blood pressure and blood sugar checked to know whether or not they have risk factors for heart disease, a statement echoed by the Go Red campaign.

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