Heart health for women

FRESNO, Calif.

Linda Gonzales' workplace became a life-saver when she had a close call last year. She's an executive staff assistant at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Northeast Fresno.

But even working in the health care field wasn't enough to encourage Linda to take care of herself and her heart. But like many working women, the 57-year-old Fresno mother and grandmother took care of everyone else in her family before herself -- until a fateful day last spring.

Linda had a meeting with her boss on a typical work day in March of last year and in the short walk back to her office, she started feeling a pain she'd never felt before. Instead of ignoring it, Linda went downstairs to see her doctor -- a convenience she enjoys because she works at Kaiser. That walk, changed her life.

"I just rushed into this office. I threw my papers down and I told Rhonda, my co-worker, I'll be right back."

Linda had an intensifying pain in her chest, and then in her jaw, radiating down her neck.

Several tests later, doctors discovered almost a total blockage in a main coronary artery and she underwent single cardiac bypass surgery.

A major part of Kaiser's cardiac program is to educate patients. Cardiology nurse practitioner Josanne Sonnier-Grant says every adult needs to know their numbers, and potential risk for heart disease. "Do they know what their blood pressure is? Do they know what their cholesterol levels are? Do they know who in their family has ever had a heart attack?"

Sonnier-Grant says women can experience more subtle signs of a heart attack than men, such as abnormal chest or abdominal pain, unexplained weakness or fatigue, nausea often mistaken for indigestion.

Linda says her close call made her move. She takes time to exercise every day -- walking during her lunch breaks, eating healthier meals, and staying a step ahead of her blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

"It's like a second chance."

Health experts say if you eat a low-fat, high fiber diet, are physically active for thirty minutes most days of the week, and don't smoke -- you'll be in the lowest risk group for heart disease.

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