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Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star

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Cardiologist: Too often, women are the ones with the broken hearts

Dr. Anita Banerjee

Ask a group of women which disease is most likely to kill them, and they’ll probably answer breast cancer or ovarian cancer, said Dr. Anita Banerjee.

But the correct answer is heart disease, she said. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both women and men, responsible for 600,000 deaths a year in the U.S.

“Women are more likely to obtain annual mammograms and Pap smears than a lipid profile or blood pressure check,” she said.

Banerjee, 37, came to the Fredericksburg area eight months ago from Maine. A cardiologist with Cardiology Associates of Fredericksburg, she told a group of mostly women recently at the Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center that women are often unaware of their symptoms when they have heart disease. As a result, they’re diagnosed at a later age than men, their symptoms are more advanced, and they suffer because of it.

To illustrate, Banerjee said:

* Women are more likely than men to die within one year of recognized heart attack.

* Women are more likely than men to have a second heart attack within six years of the first one.

* Women are more likely than men to have complications from heart bypass surgery and to die sooner after the surgery.

“It’s not only the males who have heart problems,” she said.

Banerjee said a man will be screened for heart disease, especially if he experiences chest pain. A woman may not be screened, she said, especially if her symptoms are less specific, such shortness of breath or a feeling of malaise.

To avoid heart disease, she recommended that women give up smoking, maintain a healthy weight and get regular exercise. It’s also important, she said, to take 30 minutes each day to relax.

“If you are not stressed out you will be better able to take care of your family,” she said. “I’m a better person, a better mom, a better wife, a better doctor when I have a little bit of time to myself.”