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While often thought of as a man's health condition, heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States. According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is responsible for 1 in 3 deaths of American women every year, making it more deadly than all forms of cancer combined.

Silent but dangerous

Many women do not show traditional symptoms of heart disease until they have an actual and sometimes fatal heart attack, so it is important to pay attention to the following warning signs noted by the National Institutes of Health:

• Chest discomfort or pain

• Fatigue for no apparent reason

• Fluttering sensations or palpitations of the heart

• Pain in the abdomen, back, jaw, neck or throat

• Shortness of breath

• Swelling in the feet or abdomen

A heart attack is a medical emergency, so it's critical to call 911 if you experience any or all of these symptoms.

Reduce your risk

Women who have diabetes, are overweight, drink to excess and do not exercise are more likely to develop heart disease. But there are steps you can take to lower your chances.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following:

• Limit alcohol consumption -- One drink per day is a good limit.

• Minimize stress -- Find ways to manage daily stressors by taking on fewer responsibilities or practicing meditative exercises.

• Quit smoking -- Your entire body will benefit when you kick this habit.

• Stay up to date on your screenings -- Make regular appointments with your doctor to test your cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

By taking action, you can have a powerful impact on your personal well-being.

Mission relaxation

Taking time for you shouldn't be a luxury. Consider "me time" part of your regular healthcare regimen.

While eliminating stress completely is not an option when you're living in the real world, there are steps you can take to make daily life more enjoyable, manageable and peaceful. Try these tips:

• Just say no. If something sounds like it may not fit comfortably into your schedule, have the courage to keep it off the calendar once in a while. Use the freed-up time to take a walk, finish a book or simply tend to some chores you've been neglecting.

• Take deep breaths. By dedicating a few minutes to closing your eyes and concentrating on your inhalations and exhalations, you may slow your heartbeat and stabilize your blood pressure.

• Visualize. Meditation can be a very powerful anti-stress tool, and it's a practice you can do almost anywhere at any time. Simply close your eyes for a few minutes and envision yourself spending time somewhere beautiful and quiet that brings you a sense of calm. Listen to the sounds, taste the foods -- completely immerse yourself. Your brain will reap the benefits of the mini-holiday.

To reap the full benefits of relaxation, commit yourself 100 percent. Your body and your brain will thank you in the long run.

Do you know your heart's age? What better time to find out than during American Heart Month? Visit yourheartsage.com/northwest and take our heart risk assessment to find out how old your heart is. If you're concerned about your heart health speak with your provider. If you're looking for a physician near you, visit NW-Physicians.com today!

Concerned about your heart health? Quality cardiovascular care is right around the corner. Dr. Robert Schatz, F.A.C.C., a non-interventional cardiologist located in Siloam Springs, is now accepting new patients. He is a member of the medical staff at Siloam Springs Regional Hospital. To schedule an appointment, call 479-215-3060 today.

About Siloam Springs Regional Hospital

Siloam Springs Regional Hospital is a 73 licensed bed facility with 42 private patient rooms. It is accredited by the State of Arkansas Department of Health Services and The Joint Commission. Some services include inpatient and outpatient surgery, emergency medicine, medical, surgical and intensive care units, obstetrics, outpatient diagnostic services and inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation. With more than 50 physicians on the medical staff, Siloam Springs Regional Hospital provides compassionate, customer-focused care. SSRH is an affiliate of Northwest Health, the largest health system in Northwest Arkansas. Siloam Springs Regional Hospital is located at 603 N. Progress Ave. in Siloam Springs. For more information, visit NorthwestHealth.com.

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