American Heart Month recognizes the number one killer in men and women

Simple steps can be taken to reduce your chance of heart disease - the number one killer of men and women in America.

According to Katherine McCarthy, senior regional director of communications for the American Heart Association, February is the time people should be thinking about their heart.

"February obviously has Valentine's Day, so everyone is thinking about their heart anyway," she explained. "Maybe from more of an emotional standpoint, so it makes sense to think of it from a physical standpoint, too. And, it's a great time for us then to remind people about the things that are important."

One thing people can do during the month to practice heart health is to see a doctor and have a check-up. For women, it's especially important McCarthy said, as women's symptoms may not be what they expect.

"Certainly, women can have the same symptoms as men, they can have that crushing feeling in their chest," she said. "But, women often have very different symptoms that they may confuse with something else."

Some of those symptoms include nausea, dizziness or shoulder or back pain.

"For me, the scariest fact is 64 percent [of women] who have an attack, they have no previous symptoms," added McCarthy.

Heart disease can be caused by many different lifestyle issues, according to cardiologist Joel Wolkowicz of Lake Champlain Cardiology Associates in Plattsburgh.

"Do they smoke, do they exercise, are they overweight," he said. "Those are the three biggest ones."

Wolkowicz said he will also discuss with patients such things as family history of heart disease, if they have diabetes, or high blood pressure.

"People who do change their lifestyle and start to exercise, and stop smoking and lose weight, we clearly see that they will do better down the road," he explained. "Unfortunately, a lot of people will not follow our recommendations."

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