MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Each year, more women than men die from heart disease. In fact, heart disease is the number one cause of death of women. That’s why more time and attention is being given to prevention and awareness.

Doctors are encouraging women to educate themselves about the risk factors, and the signs and symptoms heart disease.
And more hospitals are offering prevention programs.

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HealthEast runs a Cardiac Prevention Program at its Ways to Wellness Center at Woodwinds Hospital in Woodbury.

You can meet with a nutrition coach and fitness instructor as well as a cardiologist to get an assessment of your heart health, and then get a plan to prevent heart disease.

Maria Legatt, who’s dealt with heart problems since she was a child, said she was surprised when she found out.

“It was just a shock to me to think that I was this age and had heart failure, because that was a term in my mind that meant death,” she said.

Legatt got that bad news when she was in her 20s.

By the time she was 32, she needed a heart transplant. She spent 100 days on a list before a donor was found.

“You don’t want to wish that on anyone, but at the same time you want to live. It’s very … You don’t know what to wish for,” Legatt said.

Dr. Christine Roncari is a cardiologist and the medical director of the HealthEast Cardiac Prevention Program.

“Women in their 20s and 30s should be thinking about prevention, because even they are at risk for heart disease,” she said.

The signs and symptoms of a heart attack in women can be drastically different from those of men.

“Women, more than men, tend to have the atypical symptoms such as shortness of breath, flu-like symptoms or pain in the jaw. It may not be the chest pressure we all hear about,” Dr. Roncari said.

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That’s why the signs are often missed.

Dr. Roncari is one of the cardiologists who’s helping Lisa Taylor of Roseville.

“It’s not that I wasn’t feeling well, I was becoming more aware. I was watching my weight go up. Watching my cholesterol go up,” Taylor said.

Last spring, when she first started coming to the Ways to Wellness Center, Taylor was 15 pounds heavier than she is today.

She changed her diet and started exercising more.

“I did and the weight starting coming off. I went to the doctor and my cholesterol had dropped,” she said.

High cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, a family history of heart disease and smoking can all put you at a higher risk of developing heart disease.

Next Wednesday, Feb. 19, HealthEast will host a “Girls Night Out” heart disease awareness event at the Ways to Wellness Center, next to Woodwinds Hospital in Woodbury.

Highlights of the night include a panel of heart prevention experts, food samplings and demos, mini-manicures and fun activities to pamper your heart and soul. It’s from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Registration is free, but RSVP is required.

Doctors say women tend to be somewhat reluctant to take their symptoms seriously.

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Women tend to be less likely to call 911 if they think they are having a heart attack. But having an ambulance show up at your home in the first few minutes of a heart attack, could save your life.