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Getting to the Heart of the Matter: Cleveland Clinic Expert Spells it Out

Dec. 4, 2008 — If women thought tiredness were a symptom of heart problems, it could easily prompt a run on the local cardiologist's office. But it is a symptom and women need to pay attention, according to Dr. Mercedes K.C. Dullum, who spoke Thursday evening to an audience of professionals and a few members of the public in a lecture at the Charlotte Kimelman Cancer Institute.
As part of a twice-annual educational program for doctors and nurses, Schneider Regional Medical Center is hosting physicians from the prestigious Cleveland Clinic. The opening lecture by Dullum, a cardiac thoracic surgeon from the Fort Lauderdale branch of the clinic, focused on women's heart health and offered warnings on easily overlooked symptoms, as well as guidelines for preventative care.
"You hold the whole ticket in your hand with prevention," Dullum told the group. "I hate when people come into my office and I ask, 'How are you doing?' and they say, "You're the doctor!' Well you need to be responsible for your own life, and not throw it in other people's laps."
In taking responsibility, Dullum said, it's important for women to understand the symptoms of heart disease — the number-one killer of women over age 25 in the United States.
The warning signs, particularly for women, include pain in the upper jaw or neck, shortness of breath, fatigue, weakness, generalized tiredness at the end of the day, feelings of anxiety, loss of appetite, and flu-like symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and cold sweats.
"Women are used to a lot of things, and you just push on through," Dullum said. "But it's important for us to pay attention. The biggest thing I see is the generalized tiredness at the end of the day … fatigue or weakness. They are more non-specific symptoms, and more easily overlooked."
At high risk for heart trouble are people with a family history of heart disease — the majority of people, Dullum noted — as well as women who have diabetes, are obese, are inactive and/or consume a poor diet. Age is another contributing factor.
While family history and age are out of anyone's control, Dullum outlined a list of preventative measures women and men can take to counter the possibility of heart trouble, including stopping smoking and some diet recommendations: "Palm-size lean protein, fist-sized complex carbohydrate and half a plate of veggies."
She cautioned against "portion distortion," pointing out that 20 years ago a cup of coffee with milk and sugar had 45 calories.
"Today everybody gets mocha and all that junk put in there, and it's 350 calories," she said. "How long will you have to walk to burn that extra 305 calories? An hour and 20 minutes."
Dullum wasn't without humor about the trials of eating well. She outlined what she called the "new" four basic food groups.
"They are: good for you, but tastes bad; bad for you, but tastes good; makes you fat and ugly; eat it and die," she said with a chuckle.
Dullum went on to point out that the Japanese eat a low-fat diet and experience fewer cardiac problems than Americans. The French eat a high-fat diet and still experience fewer problems than Americans. The risk, she said, "… is speaking English."
Sobering statistics kicked off her lecture, prompting Dullum to guide people to the Internet for help on preventing heart attacks. Among the sites she recommended were the American Heart Association as well as her own clinic's website.
The statistics Dullum outlined included:
— 8 million American women live with heart disease today;
— One in four women has some form of cardiovascular disease;
— One in three American women dies from heart disease;
— Cardiovascular disease claims the lives of nearly 500,000 women each year — about one death every minute;
— Cardiovascular disease is a particularly important problem among minority women;
— In 2002 in the United States, 49 percent of all female deaths occurred from coronary heart disease (CHD);
— This year an estimated 345,000 women will have a heart attack;
— 38 percent of women — compared to 25 percent of men — will die within one year of having a heart attack;
— Coronary heart disease rates in women after menopause are two to three times those of women the same age before menopause; and
— 64 percent of women who die unexpectedly because of coronary heart disease had no previous symptoms.
Lectures continue Friday and Saturday at the hospital, primarily geared to professionals to earn continuing medical-education credits, or CMEs, a certain amount of which are required every year for licensing purposes.
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Dec. 4, 2008 -- If women thought tiredness were a symptom of heart problems, it could easily prompt a run on the local cardiologist's office. But it is a symptom and women need to pay attention, according to Dr. Mercedes K.C. Dullum, who spoke Thursday evening to an audience of professionals and a few members of the public in a lecture at the Charlotte Kimelman Cancer Institute.
As part of a twice-annual educational program for doctors and nurses, Schneider Regional Medical Center is hosting physicians from the prestigious Cleveland Clinic. The opening lecture by Dullum, a cardiac thoracic surgeon from the Fort Lauderdale branch of the clinic, focused on women's heart health and offered warnings on easily overlooked symptoms, as well as guidelines for preventative care.
"You hold the whole ticket in your hand with prevention," Dullum told the group. "I hate when people come into my office and I ask, 'How are you doing?' and they say, "You're the doctor!' Well you need to be responsible for your own life, and not throw it in other people's laps."
In taking responsibility, Dullum said, it's important for women to understand the symptoms of heart disease -- the number-one killer of women over age 25 in the United States.
The warning signs, particularly for women, include pain in the upper jaw or neck, shortness of breath, fatigue, weakness, generalized tiredness at the end of the day, feelings of anxiety, loss of appetite, and flu-like symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and cold sweats.
"Women are used to a lot of things, and you just push on through," Dullum said. "But it's important for us to pay attention. The biggest thing I see is the generalized tiredness at the end of the day ... fatigue or weakness. They are more non-specific symptoms, and more easily overlooked."
At high risk for heart trouble are people with a family history of heart disease -- the majority of people, Dullum noted -- as well as women who have diabetes, are obese, are inactive and/or consume a poor diet. Age is another contributing factor.
While family history and age are out of anyone's control, Dullum outlined a list of preventative measures women and men can take to counter the possibility of heart trouble, including stopping smoking and some diet recommendations: "Palm-size lean protein, fist-sized complex carbohydrate and half a plate of veggies."
She cautioned against "portion distortion," pointing out that 20 years ago a cup of coffee with milk and sugar had 45 calories.
"Today everybody gets mocha and all that junk put in there, and it's 350 calories," she said. "How long will you have to walk to burn that extra 305 calories? An hour and 20 minutes."
Dullum wasn't without humor about the trials of eating well. She outlined what she called the "new" four basic food groups.
"They are: good for you, but tastes bad; bad for you, but tastes good; makes you fat and ugly; eat it and die," she said with a chuckle.
Dullum went on to point out that the Japanese eat a low-fat diet and experience fewer cardiac problems than Americans. The French eat a high-fat diet and still experience fewer problems than Americans. The risk, she said, "... is speaking English."
Sobering statistics kicked off her lecture, prompting Dullum to guide people to the Internet for help on preventing heart attacks. Among the sites she recommended were the American Heart Association as well as her own clinic's website.
The statistics Dullum outlined included:
-- 8 million American women live with heart disease today;
-- One in four women has some form of cardiovascular disease;
-- One in three American women dies from heart disease;
-- Cardiovascular disease claims the lives of nearly 500,000 women each year -- about one death every minute;
-- Cardiovascular disease is a particularly important problem among minority women;
-- In 2002 in the United States, 49 percent of all female deaths occurred from coronary heart disease (CHD);
-- This year an estimated 345,000 women will have a heart attack;
-- 38 percent of women -- compared to 25 percent of men -- will die within one year of having a heart attack;
-- Coronary heart disease rates in women after menopause are two to three times those of women the same age before menopause; and
-- 64 percent of women who die unexpectedly because of coronary heart disease had no previous symptoms.
Lectures continue Friday and Saturday at the hospital, primarily geared to professionals to earn continuing medical-education credits, or CMEs, a certain amount of which are required every year for licensing purposes.
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.