By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer
The heart attacks a woman differently than it attacks a man.
Though the end results are similar, both genders do not share common symptoms during a heart attack.
That's the message Carol Allred of Harker Heights shared Tuesday night, Jan. 23, with the Bell Chapter of the American Business Women's Association.
Mrs. Allred is a heart attack survivor.
'By the grace of God, I'm here,' Mrs. Allred said. 'There's a payback for that. Educating women is my payback.'
To stay knowledgeable about women's heart health, she attends seminars conducted by the American Heart Association and the National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease.
Her studies and her own experience taught her that shortness of breath and a shooting pain in the left arm are not the telltale signs of a heart attack in females.
'Women's symptoms are intermittent, not constant,' Mrs. Allred said. 'You have pain in your jaw, abdomen, shoulders and upper back. Your skin feels cold and clammy. And the No. 1 complaint is a bone-weary, extreme fatigue. But if you don't know this, you can explain it all away.'
The day before she had her heart attack, Mrs. Allred said she spent the day on a boat with her grandsons, playing the part of Grandma Pirate.
'It was way hot on that boat,' she said in recollection. 'The next morning I woke up so tired, my shoulder hurt bad. I drug around and had trouble breathing. I just thought that those young boys had wore me out and that I needed to get in shape. I told myself that the breathing trouble was because of allergies or asthma.'
The thought of a heart attack didn't cross her mind until it was over.
'About 63 percent of the women who die from heart attacks don't know the symptoms,' Mrs. Allred said, quoting a statistic confirmed by the AHA Web site. 'We don't know because we're not told.'
The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., a center for research on heart disease, quotes the national rate of death in women due to heart attack as 1:3. The clinic's research says Texas has the fourth largest state rate of occurrence; more than half a million women suffer from heart disease.
Mrs. Allred said these statistics are true because the world views heart disease as a man's disease.
'So most of the research about symptoms and preventative measures are all geared toward men,' she said. 'There is legislation in the works right now trying to get that changed.'
Americanheart.org says the American Heart Association supports the Heart for Women Act. Introduced to Congress in February of 2006, this legislation seeks to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of heart disease in women. Its goals are to raise heart disease awareness among women and their physicians, to provide gender-specific information and to improve screening for low-income women.
'If passed, the legislation will help ensure that heart disease will be more widely recognized and more effectively treated in women,' Mrs. Allred said.
Until then, the heart attack survivor said women should adopt these five healthy habits:
* Move your body through space for at least 30 minutes every day. If exercise is a dirty word, don't say it.
*Eat a heart healthy diet.
* Don't smoke.
* Don't become obese.
* If you drink, drink only one glass of red wine. If you don't drink, don't start. Drink grape juice instead
'Ladies, it's important for us to take up these habits,' Mrs. Allred said. 'You've got two eyes, two arms, two legs, two breasts, and two lungs - but only one heart, so take care of it.'