No. 1 killer of women heart disease is 80 percent preventable

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Heart disease is our number one killer, but it doesn't have to be. Heart disease is 80 percent preventable. 

What we eat and how much we move can predict our risk of heart disease. The problem starts when blockages start to cut off blood flow to the heart. 

"The most common cause of death from heart disease is actually coronary artery disease," says Dr. Sindu Koshy, a cardiologist at St. John Providence. "So, that's plaque that develops in the arteries; that's heart attacks and sudden cardiac death from that. Those are things we can reduce; plaque is cholesterol and inflammation. So by changing our diet and increasing exercise we reduce those things."

The key is to prevent cholesterol from building up and turning into plaque is eating a healthy diet and, yes, exercising. 

"Exercise is really about building your heart's compensation, so it's able to compensate more. So, we dilate the blood vessels; we reduce our cholesterol; we reduce our weight, which, in turn, lowers your blood pressure, which prevents that inflammation to form in the heart," she explains. 

Knowing your numbers, like blood pressure, cholesterol and weight is a great first step. Know the symptoms of heart attack.

For both men and women, it's shortness of breath, but Dr. Koshy explains there can be differences. 

"Woman often won't say "pain", so we use the word discomfort or an uncomfortable feeling in the chest. Women also often have pain kind of down here, so it feels like their stomach; it feels like it's heartburn. Whereas men will often say, 'crushing chest pain in the top of their chest.'

"Women also will get both arm pain, rather than the left arm pain we hear so commonly. Women will get jaw pain.

"Some of these are independent of each other, so you may only have jaw pain by itself, or only shoulder pain and no chest pain whatsoever.

"Also, women get pain between their shoulder blades, right above their bra clasp. So that's a little different than what men would get.

"Almost everybody gets shortness of breath, which is probably the biggest and most common sign you get with heart disease or a heart attack. Shortness of breath is never normal; you need to be worked up if you have that."

You can learn more about staying heart healthy at the Go Red for Women Luncheon on February 16. You can get more information or tickets online here.