SAN ANGELO, Texas — The first Friday in February is a day dedicated to raising awareness for women's heart health.
Although historically considered a male disease, cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of women in the United States, claiming one woman every 80 seconds, according to the American Heart Association.
"Fifteen years ago, only about 25% of women were able to identify that heart disease was the leading cause of death," local cardiologist Dr. Michael Blanc said.
Why has it been harder to identify cardiovascular diseases in women? Blanc said it could be because of the symptoms.
"Women tend to have more atypical symptoms. They won't always have the typical middle-of-the-chest chest pain that we think of when people have heart problems. Sometimes they'll have vague chest or shoulder pain, feel lightheaded or dizzy, or they'll even come in with new nausea," he said.
Blanc said that one of the reasons programs such as "Go Red for Women" are so important is because not only do women need to be more aware of the risks and symptoms of heart disease, they also need to be aware of how to prevent cardiovascular diseases.
"It is such a preventable disease. By just taking on the job of not smoking cigarettes or any other nicotine product, your risk of having a heart attack or strokes will be cut by 50 percent," he said.
Besides cutting out nicotine products, Blanc said adopting a healthy, plant-based diet makes the biggest difference. Lowering the amount of red meat consumed, increasing the amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and not eating more calories than needed.
"We can have red meat, but it's portion sizes that are important. Instead of having 6-12 ounces of red meat four to five times a week, we want to keep it to 4-6 ounces of red meat two to three times a week. Try to have more vegetables in your diet and eat foods low in cholesterol," he said.