Doctor warns younger women about early signs of heart disease

More women under 55 are ignoring sypmtoms of potential heart attack

EL PASO, Texas - Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States and it is important to catch the warning signs.

Dr. Roger Belbel, Chief of Chest Pain Services at Las Palmas Medical Center recommends that women under the age of 55 also remain vigilant about their health.

He told ABC-7 more women are ignoring the symptoms simply because they think they are too young to deal with heart conditions that could lead to a heart attack.

"Men were more likely not to go to the doctor. Now women are becoming more likely not to go," he said.

One of the reasons younger women are missing the warning signs is they don't see the typical symptoms of a heart attack.

The American Heart Association said researchers found that "one in five women age 55 and younger didn't experience chest pain with their heart attack."

Dr. Bebel said women in general are less likely to feel chest pain or the numbing sensation in the left arm.

"Younger women don't get that kind of discomfort, they generally feel more tired, more agitated when they try to do activities. Those things should be concerning to the patient," he said.

Fatigue is the number symptom Dr. Babel said to look out for, other symptoms include: shortness of breath, tightness or heaviness in your body, pain in the back of your neck or your shoulders, early menopause, weight gain and/or increased stress.

Dr. Belbel said doctors can often overlook the symptoms and warning signs.

"It's very unusual for doctors to deal with patients in their 30's and early 40's, typically women, presenting what we would call heart disease or symptoms of heart disease because we are taught women are protected through out their lives because of hormone projection," he said.

Dr. Belbel explained that when women hit menopause, the protection they've had all their lives through the production of estrogen and progesterone, which are the hormones women make from their ovaries to protect them, are gone.

His recommendations include more exercise, have a physician administer a stress test and get an annual physical.

ABC-7 spoke with a patient of Las Palmas who said she ignored the warning signs and in two years doctors placed  two stents in her arteries.

The first stent was place because doctors found one of Ribera's arteries more than 70% blocked.

Shortly after that she had complications because she did not take her medication properly. Ribera landed in a hospital again with the second stent placed in her artery.

The stents prevented a potential heart attack.

"I didn't pay too much attention. I should've just made the lifestyle change from the get go. That's the mistake other people make including myself, especially myself," said Maria Ribera, who first had heart complications at the age of 20.

Now in her 40's, Ribera said she would have done things differently.

She said her eating and exercise habits have improved. Ribera walks a mile everyday to keep her heart strong.

"Just listen to your body, what it's trying to tell you. Don't dismiss it too quick. It is better to be safe than sorry. I never thought that at forty-something I'd be getting a stent," said Ribera.

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