12/12/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Am I Slowly Giving Myself a Heart Attack?

On Saturday, I had the chance to sit in on a lecture delivered by Oprah's cardiologist, Annabelle Volgman, MD. As Associate Professor of Medicine and Medical Director of the Rush University Medical Center Heart Center for Women, Volgman knows women's tickers, and as she addressed our group of healthy lifestyle bloggers attending the Quaker Living Proof Weekend in Chicago, she who managed to effectively scare the crap out of me -- aided, no doubt, by (shameless plug alert!) Quaker's new High Fiber Instant Oatmeal, which provides 40% of the recommended daily value of fiber.

Anyhow, Volgman was listing some risk factors for women and heart disease and had this healthy blogger freaking out because I:

* Am Type A -- risk!
* Am ridiculously easily stressed out (which means epinephrine is constantly surging through my body, hardening my arteries and priming me for heart-unhealthy belly fat) -- risk!
* Am a woman -- and women account for more than 60% of all stroke deaths -- risk!

Plus, I had just eaten a cookie, and Volgman says a fatty meal (compared with a olive oil-drench Mediterranean dinner) can instantly stiffen arteries - risk!

In all seriousness, too many women walk around clueless as to their risk -- and the fact is, heart disease is the number one killer of both women and men. Our gender may not believe we're as vulnerable as our male counterparts, but we account for nearly half of all heart attack deaths. And our symptoms aren't always the of the clutching-heart, falling-down, in-the-movies variety. They include:

Unusual fatigue
Sleep disturbance
Shortness of breath
Chest discomfort

Sound familiar? These symptoms plague women every day, even when our hearts are doing swell. Sadly, heart disease in women is often mistaken for panic attack, as they share such similar symptoms, according to the Women's Heart Foundation.

Alarmist blog title aside, I'm not totally doomed. In fact, after listening to Volgman, I've got quite a few things working in my favor. Anxiety and sleep deprivation are as much a part of my daily life as checking email and munching leftover Halloween candy, don't get me wrong. But I do some pretty heart-health things, too:

* I exercise pretty much daily -- the blood plumping, sweat dripping kind -- earning me a pulse on par with Lance Armstrong.
* I boast an impressively high HDL (good) cholesterol -- greater than 60 mg/dl -- and keep my LDL cholesterol (bad) under 100 mg/dl.
*I drink martinis. I know, it's not red wine... though I drink that on occasion, too... but it's still alcohol.
* I eat a trough of oatmeal every morning
* I refrain from puffing on cancer-sticks (Besides upping your risk of lung, mouth and throat cancer, smoking cigs raises your risk of heart attack and stroke)

Ladies, how are you doing?

February is National Heart Health Month and National Wear Red Day is Friday, Feb. 6, 2009. Learn more at the Go Red for Women Campaign or at Quaker's Living Proof website.

Also in attendance was Stephanie Izard (a Chicagoan and the winner of the most recent Top Chef), who led a cooking-with-oats live demo. Make these -- it's your chance to feel like Padma for a morning...

Top Chef 2008 winner Stephanie Izard's Heart-healthy Oat Pancake Recipe‏

3 bananas
1/2 c milk
1/2 t vanilla
1/2 c ground oats
3/4 c oats
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/4 t salt
2 t baking powder
2 egg whites, whipped to soft peaks
sliced banana for garnish

Blend bananas and milk together in blender.
Transfer to bowl and stir in vanilla, oats, flour, baking powder and salt.
Fold in egg whites.
Spray nonstick griddle with pan spray and heat over medium heat.
Add in a few spoonfuls of batter, leaving room for when they expand.
Cook on each side until lightly browned.
To serve, top with banana slices and drizzle with pomegranate syrup.


1 c pomegranate juice
2 T honey

In non reactive sauce pot, reduce until thickened.

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