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Dr. Srilatha Ayirala, noninvasive cardiologist at The Heart & Vascular Center, Comanche County Memorial Hospital, points to a heart model while explaining how plaque can start building up in the body even during childhood, which can lead to cardiovascular disease in both women and men.

A month with a message: Heart disease kills women

Thinking she just had some shortness of breath, heartburn as well as some aches and pains, Kathy Fanning didn't worry about undergoing some cardiovascular tests on Oct. 2. She didn't worry until, later that day, she was being prepped for a coronary bypass due to five blockages of her heart.

"I didn't know that heart disease was the number one killer of women. I thought it was just men," she said, when given that information during the phone interview Thursday. Fanning, who works at Comanche County Memorial Hospital as the surgery unit secretary, said she should have been more aware of the risks since her mother had undergone a triple bypass when she was in her late 50s. She also learned that she had many other risks associated with cardiovascular disease.

Fanning is not unique. Despite a concerted effort by the American Heart Association beginning about 10 years ago to inform woman of their risk of heart disease, many women have not gotten the memo and neither have some doctors.

"Despite increases in awareness over the past decade, only 54 percent of women recognize that heart disease is their number one killer," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in an August 2013  "Women and Heart Disease Fact Sheet" at www.cdc.gov.

There is a myth that cancer is the biggest killer.

The Lawton Constitution

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