02/29/2012 08:09 am ET Updated Apr 30, 2012

The Mount Sinai Hospital Physicians Debunk the 5 Most Common Heart Disease Myths Plaguing Latinas

In celebration of American Heart Month, cardiologists from The Mount Sinai Hospital addressed the 5 leading myths about heart disease that often misinform the Latino community. According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the number one killer among Hispanic women in the U.S. and Latinas are at risk of suffering from heart disease 10 years before other women. With this in mind, Mount Sinai took on the challenge of lifting the veil on the existing myths and communicating the truth. If there's a woman in your life that you hold dear, read on carefully, test your knowledge and spread the word!

Myth # 1 - "Heart disease is a man's problem. I'm more worried about diseases that affect women."
Every year heart disease claims more lives among women than any other disease . According to Dr. Vivian Abascal, Cardiologist at The Mount Sinai Hospital and Assistant Professor of Mount Sinai School of Medicine, "It is estimated that only 13% of women see heart disease as a threat. The low level of awareness exists because earlier investigations focused solely on men since their manifestation of cardiovascular disease typically occurs at an early age and because men used to be the ones with the highest incidence of heart disease. But, in the 1960s and 1970s the role of women expanded to include working outside of the home, which resulted in more stress and other risk factors that were not present in prior generations." By the 1980s, women surpassed men as the main victims of heart disease.

Myth # 2 - "If I have a heart attack, the symptoms will be the same as those in men."
Symptoms of a heart attack are manifested differently among men and women. Women experience shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness, back pain and pain in the left arm; while men feel a crushing pain in their chest. Johanna P. Contreras, Cardiologist at The Mount Sinai Hospital and Assistant Professor of Mount Sinai School of Medicine, explained; "Recent studies show that women wait longer to call 911 when they suffer a heart attack because they do not identify the symptoms or mistake them for temporary discomfort." Dr. Contreras adds, "Heart disease symptoms may be subtle, so you have to be aware of the symptoms mentioned and immediately talk to your doctor to determine the severity of the situation." If the problem is detected early, many cardiac risk factors can be controlled, modified or deleted, including hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity and physical inactivity.

Myth # 3 - "After heart surgery or stroke, men are more likely to have complications than women."
The mortality after a heart attack or coronary bypass surgery is greater in women than in men. Dr. Abascal explained, "Usually, heart attacks or heart problems that require intervention occur in women after age 65 when estrogen diminishes and the heart becomes more vulnerable. Men, on the other hand, are alerted about heart risks beginning at approximately the age of 40 because they start experiencing heart disease complications around the age of 50." Dr. Abascal concludes, "By taking preventive measures earlier, men have been better prepared to survive a heart attack or surgery than women. Furthermore, the prevalence of hypertension is higher in women over 65 years of age than in men, which helps to increase the risk.

Myth # 4 - "Hypertension is not a serious problem for women. If I am not feeling any symptoms, I'm fine"
Hypertension is the most important, modifiable risk factor of cardiovascular disease. And, if not treated early, it can lead to irreversible damage. Dr. Contreras explains, "Some people call hypertension 'the silent murderer' because its symptoms are subtle or not present and, in its early stages, only through a deep examination the diagnosis can be made." Hypertension prevents blood from flowing properly throughout the arteries, which over time can cause heart attacks and organ damage. Dr. Contreras adds, "The good news is that in most cases hypertension is treatable with a combination of lifestyle changes and medication and thus preventing the deleterious effects that hypertension can have long-term."

Myth # 5 - "A 'broken heart' is a just an expression. Emotions really don't affect my heart."
Takotsubo cardiomyopathy or 'broken heart syndrome' is a disease that occurs primarily in women who are experiencing extreme emotion, like the death of a loved one. According to Dr. Abascal, "Broken heart syndrome can be confused with a heart attack because the patient can even experience shortness of breath. Only when tests are conducted, can the real problem be identified." Although broken heart syndrome can be cured in approximately 2 months, women should be aware of its existence. Dr. Abascal added, "It has been shown that chronic stress increases blood pressure and prolonged increases in blood pressure can lead to a heart attack or other complications." Try to keep your emotions under control and have a healthy lifestyle. Your heart will be grateful.

Awareness and knowledge are the first steps in taking control of your health. Maintain a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise, a balanced diet and regular appointments with your doctor. Remember to take care of yourself and encourage those around you to do the same.

To learn more ways to stay healthy, tune in every Saturday at 11am on Telemundo Channel 47 New York for ¡A tu Salud!, a health and wellness TV series created by The Mount Sinai Hospital especially for the Latino community. Or, visit For an appointment with a specialist contact: 1-877-241-4983.


About The Mount Sinai Medical Center

The Mount Sinai Medical Center encompasses both The Mount Sinai Hospital and Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Established in 1968, Mount Sinai School of Medicine is one of the leading medical schools in the United States. The Medical School is noted for innovation in education, biomedical research, clinical care delivery, and local and global community service. It has more than 3,400 faculty in 32 departments and 14 research institutes, and ranks among the top 20 medical schools both in National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding and by U.S. News & World Report.

The Mount Sinai Hospital, founded in 1852, is a 1,171-bed tertiary- and quaternary-care teaching facility and one of the nation's oldest, largest and most-respected voluntary hospitals. In 2011, U.S. News & World Report ranked The Mount Sinai Hospital 16th on its elite Honor Roll of the nation's top hospitals based on reputation, safety, and other patient-care factors. Of the top 20 hospitals in the United States, Mount Sinai is one of 12 integrated academic medical centers whose medical school ranks among the top 20 in NIH funding and US News & World Report and whose hospital is on the US News & World Report Honor Roll. Nearly 60,000 people were treated at Mount Sinai as inpatients last year, and approximately 560,000 outpatient visits took place.

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Andrés Reyes, Latin2Latin Marketing + Communications.
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