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Heart month focuses on women

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In February, health experts work to spread awareness about heart disease - the leading cause of death in America.

Dr. Michael Lazar is executive director of the Heart and Vascular Institute at UPMC.

He says this year, the American Heart Association is dedicating American Heart Month to educating women on the disease.

“The same kind of pain that men experience classically as chest and arm and jaw pain," he said. "For women, can be much more subtle."

Tightness or squeezing in the chest is a sign of a heart attack, which means blood flow to the heart is blocked or severely reduced.

Women's brains are wired differently, Dr. Lazar explains, because they experience internal pain more often.

“When they feel internal pain, they don't immediately assume it's coming from their heart,” he said. “So if you call attention to it, this might be a heart issue, you save a lot more folks than you would otherwise.”

But even more important than proper detection is prevention.

“If the (heart) muscle is actually damaged.. we have no way to bring that back. But we can fix the blood supply to it early before damage is done. We can control the blood pressure with medicine so that the heart isn't stressed," he said. "But once the damage happens, there's almost nothing we can do to make it better.”

Dr. Lazar says that regular visits to the doctor include heart checks. Otherwise, a person can keep a healthy heart by getting a good amount of sleep, and 2.5 to 5 hours of exercise per week. He also suggests a healthy diet, and notes that the Mediterranean diet might be the best for the heart.

The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute is hosting a series of webinars this month, focusing on topics such as aortic aneurysms, life with a pacemaker, and the link between heart disease and stroke.

Haley joined the WVIA news team in 2023 as a reporter and host. She grew up in Scranton and studied Broadcast Journalism at Marywood University. Haley has experience reporting in Northeast Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley. She enjoys reporting on Pennsylvania history and culture, and video storytelling.

You can email Haley at haleyobrien@wvia.org
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