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Recognizing the signs of heart disease in women

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DENVER — Women need to know the signs of heart attack, regardless of age or family history.

Doctors say some women may even mistake heart disease symptoms for other less serious health conditions.

Lakewood business owner Kathy Spencer said she started to feel a dull intermittent pain in her jaw that eventually got worse.

She said a Kaiser Permanente nurse told her to visit her doctor immediately.  That’s when Kathy learned just how serious her condition was.

“They came in and gave me an EKG and said you definitely are having a heart problem,” Spencer said.

Just one week before her diagnosis, Kathy had climbed 430 steps to see the Mother Cabrini Shrine.

Dr. Julie Sutherland, a Kaiser Permanente cardiologist, says many women tend to assume they may not be at risk for heart disease.

While women and men mostly experience the same type of heart attack symptoms, some can be more prevalent in women.

Dr. Sutherland said both women and men experience chest pain or chest pressure sometimes with radiation of that pain up to the jaw or neck and usually down the left arm.

She adds that women may tend to also experience other symptom more than men like “shortness of breath and nausea that’s unexplained,  particularly nausea associated with sweating.”

High blood pressure, diabetes and smoking can contribute to the risk of heart attack along with a family history, although many women diagnosed with heart disease do not have a family history.

Doctors say it’s important to know your normal, listen to your body and if you experience any of the symptoms get to a medial expert right away.

“If you talk to your doctor early at the onset of symptoms your doctor can help you identify risk factors (and) you can control them long term,” Sutherland said.