Women's Heart Health, Part One - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Women's Heart Health, Part One


Women and men aren't that much different when it comes to heart disease, both are treated the same.  But cardiologists say before the traditional symptoms both genders experience comes those unique to females.  Here's Health Plus with details.

As a hospital volunteer, Mary Rae Van Dorn feels great taking a walk compared to three years ago.  

"My legs swelled up to concrete pilings one time and I thought, well it's just something that will go away but it didn't," says Mary Rae Van Dorn who had a heart procedure.

Turns out a heart murmur diagnosed in her 40s led to a mitral valve problem in her 60s.

"A normal one was supposed to close like this and mine was going like this so all the blood was going from the lower chamber up into the upper chamber.  It wasn't stopping," she says.

So open heart surgery, cardiac rehab and a commitment to exercise and diet changes have left her a healthy 64-year-old today. 

Cardiologists at Covenant Medical Center in Waterloo say women still have classic symptoms when it comes to heart trouble but... "The symptoms leading up to the event may be atypical, however.  You're fatigued.  You're short of breath.  You don't have the energy you once had.  That could be the heart," says Dr. Richard Valente, a Covenant cardiologist.

As for heart treatment, though, it's not gender specific.

"Once the disease is diagnosed, we treat men and women exactly the same."

Mary Rae is just glad she saw a doctor.

"If you don't, it's probably certain death."

Something doctors say you can prevent if you don't ignore what your body's trying to tell you.

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