Q&A with UPMC: Ask the Expert

Women & Heart Disease

Maryam Mohammadi, MD, is a board-certified cardiologist with UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute at UPMC Altoona. She specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease. Her area of interest includes echocardiography and nuclear cardiology. Dr. Mohammadi is accepting new patients at two office locations — UPMC Altoona Blair Medical Associates (814-946-1655) in Altoona, and UPMC Bedford Memorial Specialty Services (814-623-0831) in Everett.

Q: Is heart disease still the No. 1 killer of women?

A: Yes, heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women and it causes 1 in 3 deaths each year. It is also a leading contributor to disability. However, most women aren’t aware that it is a major threat to their health.

Q: What are the signs of heart attack in women?

A: Some women who have heart disease may not be diagnosed until they have signs or symptoms of a heart attack. The most common heart attack symptom is pain, uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, or fullness in the center of chest. But women are more likely to report back or neck pain, indigestion, heartburn, tiredness, or breathing problems.

Q: What’s the best way to preserve heart health and prevent heart disease?

A: Following a heart-healthy lifestyle is your best defense against heart disease. That means you should quit smoking; get moving; lose weight; make healthy food choices; minimize your alcohol consumption; and know and control your blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels.

Q: What is a heart-healthy diet?

Q&A with UPMC Ask the Expert Heart Health diet strawberries blueberries blackberries in heart shaped bowlA: Foods that are the foundation of a heart-healthy diet include fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, fiber-rich whole grains, and protein-rich foods like lean meats, fish, poultry, eggs, and beans.

Q: Is heart disease a concern for older women only?

A: Heart disease affects women of all ages. For younger women, the combination of birth control pills and smoking boosts heart disease risks by 20 percent. And while the risks do increase with age, overeating and a sedentary lifestyle can cause plaque to accumulate and lead to clogged arteries later in life. Even if you lead a completely healthy lifestyle, being born with an underlying heart condition can be a risk factor.