Woman's Survival Story From Heart Disease; Leading Cause Of Death

Franque Thompson

OMAHA (KPTM)- Heart disease is the number one cause of death among women, especially African Americans. The American Heart Association said only about one third of black women know that heart disease is their biggest health risk.

Dionne Whitfield wears a battle scar on her chest from her fight against heart disease. She had three blocked arteries--one of them with two clogs.

"It was almost like a pressure, as if somebody was pushing down on your chest. Like just constantly, it wouldn't move," said Whitfield.

The American Heart Association said nearly 50,000 black women die from cardiovascular disease each year. 49 percent of them have heart disease.

Whitfield said what saved her life was a trip to the doctor. She said, "I would more than likely would have had a heart attack."

Cardiologist Dr. Daniel Anderson, of the University of Nebraska Medical Center, said 40 percent of people in their 30s will be diagnosed with coronary artery disease. It is a plaque that builds up in the arteries that blocks blood to the heart and could potentially cause a heart attack. That number increases to 70 percent for people in their 50s.

"If you have high blood pressure, you have high cholesterol, and you're diabetic, and you smoke, and you're overweight, and you don't exercise and you don't eat right your risks are much higher," said Dr. Anderson.

He said the last resort in treating heart problems is surgery, but there are some easier ways to see healthier results. Dr. Anderson suggests eating more nutritional meals, exercising, limiting your alcohol intake, stop smoking, and visit your doctor.

"In your 30's you should see a doctor three times, in your 40s four times, in your 50s five times and maybe every year thereafter," said Dr. Anderson.

"If you find out you do have high blood pressure or are pre-diabetic or are diabetic, you know, take the steps to help you yourself," said Whitfield.

The American Heart Association said African Americans tend to have higher rates of obesity and diabetes which puts the community at a higher risk for high blood pressure and heart disease.

Doctors also suggest lowering your salt intake to avoid those health risks.