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Almost twice as many Arkansans will die from heart disease than COVID-19

February is the start of National Heart Month, a time we should all use to make sure we're heart healthy.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — In case you haven't checked the calendar, today is February 1st. It's also the start of National Heart Month, a time we should all use to make sure we're heart healthy. This is especially important in Arkansas.

As tragic as COVID-19 has been, almost twice as many Arkansans will die from heart disease. And in a lot of ways, COVID has made heart problems even worse.

“You know, we've seen a lot of people sit on symptoms and basically hope for the best because they're afraid to come into the hospital or clinics, because they're trying to be safe,” Interventional Cardiologist Dr. Nazneen Tata said. “And I tell people, ‘we'll keep you safe. You just need to come in and get that help before it's too late.’”

And if there was one overriding factor at the root of heart disease?

“It's hard to put a finger just on one. What I would say is lifestyle,” Dr. Tata said.

Of course she means diet, exercise and no smoking.

“There is no good number of cigarettes, you know. Zero is your number,” she said. “But when I talk about lifestyle too, it's also stress in the world we live in, you know, psychological stress is just as important as physical stress.”

Dr. Tata is quick to point out this stress is not just in men, women need to be aware too.

“When you're under a lot of stress, there is a lot of changes in our neural hormones and that puts strain on our heart physiologically,” Dr. Tata said. “So, women need to understand that.”

Heart attack signs in men are very familiar — pain in the arms, shortness of breath, chest pain.

“But with women what we see sometimes, it's more from indigestion type feeling, so like a heartburn feeling,” she said.

Outcomes for women are improving, but in terms of year to year outcomes, women still do worse than men.

“You know we're good at nagging, but we had to take our own medicine sometimes,” Dr. Tata said.

Bottom line, don't let ignorance become an underlying condition — know your heart health.

“I cannot tell you I’m going to buy you 15 more years or 20 more years,” Dr. Tata said. “All I’m trying to give you back is quality of life. Where you can enjoy the time you have to your best abilities and I think once people recognize that, I have seen people turn around their lives.

Dr. Tata shared with us some risk factors that women should consider:

Do you answer yes to any of these questions:

  1. Did you have high blood pressure during pregnancy
  2. Did you have heart problems during pregnancy?
  3. Did you become a diabetic during pregnancy?

If answering yes to those questions, you’re at risk of heart disease. It's best to talk it over with your primary care physician first.