By Joshua Stockbridge

If Hallmark Health System has its way, more local women will become aware of the dangers of heart disease – and fewer women will be dying from it.

To that end, Hallmark will be holding its seventh annual heart disease seminar next Saturday, Feb. 2, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Stoneham’s Montvale Plaza in recognition of National Red Dress Day.

The purpose of the event is to raise awareness of heart disease among women. It is the number one cause of death for women in the United States and is responsible for taking more lives on a yearly basis then all cancers combined.

According to Danielle Patturelli, an RN and community outreach coordinator at Hallmark’s Cardiac & Endovascular Center at Melrose-Wakefield Hospital, many women do not experience the same types of “classic” symptoms as their male counterparts do while suffering from a heart attack or stroke. Their symptoms, if left unchecked, can result in an inaccurate diagnosis and lead to numerous other health issues.

The key, according to Patturelli, is to first correctly identify the problem so that it can be addressed properly.

“Most women tend to not recognize the symptoms of heart disease as accurately as men do,” Patturelli said. “Women think breast cancer when it comes to their health, but they need to realize that they are more likely to suffer from heart disease as opposed to cancer.”

Patturelli went on to say that the biggest misconception is that heart disease is more of a male issue. She also said that because the majority of people think of men when it comes to having a heart attack, in many cases women often don’t even realize they are suffering from a heart related issue and are not as quick to go see a specialist.

“Sometimes the symptoms are not as classic in women as they are in men,” Patturelli said. “[Women] need to recognize that it could be as simple as fatigue, or in some cases back pain, but because they don’t realize what is happening they just think they pulled a muscle. They don’t show up at the ER as much as men either, which is a big concern, and typically they are not as quick to dial 911 when feeling discomfort.”

In a recent study, 79 percent of women said they would call 911 immediately if they thought someone else was suffering from a heart attack, but only 53 percent said they would call if they thought that they were experiencing chest pains. Up to 40 percent of women do not experience chest pains as a part of their heart attack systems, again leading to misdiagnosis and ultimately additional health issues.

As a part of Hallmark’s seminar next weekend, attendees will be given a one-hour screening if they so choose; they will also have the opportunity to hear a number of cardiologists speak to some of the risk factors/warning signs that women need to look out for, as well as healthy heart initiatives such a proper diet and exercise programs and stress relief strategies.

The event will also include a free luncheon, raffles and additional information to help women stay healthy, which will also include blood pressure and body mass index screenings and informational sessions with the pharmacist.

One of the speakers at the event will be Dr. Erica Brooks, a cardiologist on the Hallmark Health System medical staff. Brooks said that the main goal of the event is to increase awareness of cardiovascular disease in all people and to provide as much information as possible.

“Women really need to identify the symptoms,” said Brooks. “They need to be aware of neck discomfort, any discomfort in the jaw, or something in the arms. It doesn’t have to be chest pain. And they need to call 911 or go to the ER as soon as they think they are having a heart related issue.”

Brooks said that the problem for most women is that they spend the majority of their time running around taking care of their families and are not as aware of their own health issues as they should be.

She went on to say that women don’t “personalize” heart related issues as much as men do and that they need to realize that it is a lifelong disease and must be monitored very closely.

“I recommend an annual physical for both men and women,” Brooks said. “The focus is starting to switch to prevention, which is great, and an overall understanding of the risks of cardio vascular disease ... people must make sure to continually get their cholesterol checked, their blood pressure, blood sugar if they are diabetic, because we really don’t talk about these health concerns as much as we should.

“People have to make sure that they talk to their doctors about these types of issues,” said Brooks. “They have to continually ask questions and get as proactive in their own health as they can be.”

In a follow up to the heart disease seminar, Hallmark Health will be offering their Healthy Heart Series this spring. The series will consist of lectures as it relates to preventing heart disease, healthy nutrition guides and managing stress techniques. It is a three-part series that will be held in April, May and June of this year.

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