How is it that so many people are ticking cardiac time bombs and aren't aware of it?
In the conclusion of The Saturday Early Show's "Heartscore" series, medical correspondent Dr. Mallkia Marshall explains that physicians have tried over the past few years to drill the most common risk factors for heart disease into all of us. But, she continues, many people are still walking around with untreated conditions that put them at high risk for heart disease – conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking.
Part of the answer, Marshall observes, is that we're still not reaching a large percentage of the population with this important message. Another problem is that some people simply think they're invincible and that it may happen to someone else, but it won't happen to them. Another issue is that some of the conditions that raise your risk for heart disease are frequently symptom-free, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure. And then there are people who do have symptoms consistent with heart disease, but are either in denial or unaware that these symptoms could herald a heart attack.
According to Marshall, warning signs include:
Also, symptoms of a heart attack in women may be very different from those in men, and as a result are often dismissed as being caused by something else. A woman who is having a heart attack may complain of symptoms very different from that of a man. She's more likely to report shortness of breath, nausea, palpitations, or feelings of anxiety, and not necessarily the chest pressure or chest pain that a man may experience. This makes it more challenging to diagnose heart disease in women, but fortunately doctors are being better educated on how to recognize heart attack symptoms in women, or at least not to blow them off as indigestion or stress.
But if you do realize you may be at risk, there are some newer tests that can confirm or disprove it, Marshall points out. Among them: