NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Should women in their 20s and 30s be concerned about heart disease? The answer is yes.
Heart disease is the number one killer of women and it can start developing in the teen years.
As CBS2’s Mary Calvi reported, for many it’s the last thing on their minds.
Vanessa Rodriguez was fourteen weeks pregnant and just 29-years-old when she suffered a heart attack.
“I was in utter shock. Heart disease is common in men, not a woman in her twenties,” she said.
Carla Wills had her first heart attack at 26, and another at 38. She said she was frustrated by skeptical doctors.
“Before I was diagnosed, I went to four medical professionals,” she said.
Experts said Wills’ experience is not that uncommon.
“Unfortunately, there are doctors that will not take a young woman seriously because they are thought of as low risk,” Dr. Annabelle Volgman said.
Women also need to be aware.
“It’s important to understand from an early age that they could be at risk,” she said.
Risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and being overweight. But even know risk factors, many women don’t recognize the symptoms.
“I felt like I had terrible indigestion,” Kary McLlwain said.
McLlwain, 53, was having a heart attack.
Experts said women often experience symptoms they don’t associate with a heart attack.
“Women will sometimes have strange sensations like can’t sleep, jaw pain, teeth pain, neck pain,” Dr. Volgman said.
Vanessa Rodriguez is now exercising and improving her diet to help lower her risk.
“My weight plays a significant factor, so that’s one thing that I need to work on,” Wills said.
Wills is on medication, but has also made lifestyle changes, and wants other women to learn from her experience.
“Make sure you get regular treatment. I have been so made aware that heart disease is the number one killer of women,” Wills said.
While deaths from heart attacks are going down in most age groups they are increasing in women aged 35 to 54.
Other signs of a heart attack that women should look out for include; pressure in the center of the chest, pain in both arms, and nausea or lightheadedness.