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National Wear Red Day Aims To Raise Awareness Of Heart Disease, The Number One Killer Of Women

CHICAGO (CBS) -- On this National Wear Red Day, the American Heart Association hopes to raise awareness about the number one killer of women.

CBS News Correspondent Danya Bacchus has the story of one woman who suffered a heart condition on the rise in females.

Dr. Elaine Mamil spends her days caring for children with kidney disorders. After a work trip in 2013, she experienced chest pain and shortness of breath.

"I actually had been seeing a cardiologist for a few months beforehand, because I was having some chest discomfort, and my evaluation was fine," she said.

She was diagnosed with "broken heart syndrome," which causes weakness of the heart muscle, often triggered by emotional or physical stress.

While considered temporary, up to 10% of patients will have another event within five years.

"We lost one of our sons at the very end of 2009," Kamil said. "I'm pretty sure I had another episode back then."

The Women's Heart Alliance has launched a new awareness campaign

"We are doing this because of the rising cardiovascular death rates in women, particularly younger women under the age of 50, and particularly women of color. And this started before the pandemic, but it has been exacerbated by the pandemic," said Dr. Noel Bairey Merz medical director of the Barbara Streisand Women's Heart Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Merz said the warning signs are not just chest pain.

"Women will have other types of symptoms, and this is why they get misdiagnosed; indigestion, overwhelming fatigue, shortness of breath, radiating pain into their jaw or shoulder," Merz said.

Research shows broken heart syndrome is on the rise in middle-aged and older women, like Kamil, who is 75.

"I go for regular follow ups. I take my medication faithfully. The hard part is psychologically knowing you had this problem, and not being worried constantly it's going to come back," she said.

Kamil is part of a Cedars-Sinai study to help doctors better understand the condition. She hopes more women take charge of their heart health.

It's important to get your heart checked. A doctor can calculate a woman's risk of heart disease through tests and screenings.

A doctor can calculate a woman's risk of heart disease through tests and screenings.

Wear Red Day is also a fundraiser. The American Heart Association is trying to raise $3 million to help prevent cardiovascular disease in women. You can donate on their website.

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