Heart-to-heart about hearts

For nearly 30 years, more women than men have died due to cardiovascular disease. Still, says one Marietta doctor, women remain somewhat unaware of the risk.

“Women have this feeling that their likelihood of developing heart disease is less than their husband, but that just is not the case,” said Dr. Joseph Mayo, lead cardiologist at Marietta Memorial Hospital.

Getting women to acknowledge those risks can be a challenge and to acknowledge that challenge nearly 200 women gathered Thursday at Marietta Memorial Hospital’s annual Go Red for Women Luncheon at the Marietta Shrine Club.

Women donned scarlet sweaters, ruby hats and crimson dresses to raise awareness and to honor loved ones affected by cardiovascular disease -the No. 1 killer of both women and men.

Belpre resident Francis Hupp, 71, was wearing red for her parents.

“My mother died of a heart attack and my father died of a heart attack,” she said.

After last year’s luncheon, Hupp decided it was time to schedule an appointment with Mayo and everything checked out well.

“He said to tell the kids not to count on the inheritance money any time soon,” she joked.

One of the reasons women may be more unlikely to reach out for help, said Mayo, is because the symptoms of heart problems in women are much more subtle than those men experience.

“A man might come in and say that it feels like there’s a crushing pain on his chest, where a woman might come in and say her shoulder hurts or she feels achy,” explained Mayo.

One of the good things about the luncheons is that they encourage people to be vigilant about those check-ups, said Jennifer Offenberger, director of marketing and public relations for the Memorial Health System.

“As women, we don’t always put ourselves as No. 1,” she said.

The event encouraged Carol McConnell, 67, of Lowell, to try something new.

“I’m thinking of doing some of the exercise groups,” said McConnell, who is already a member of the hospital’s 55 Plus Program.

Several ladies at the table next to McConnell participate in “Workout With Wendy,” a Wednesday morning exercise group for those in the 55 Plus Program.

Group member Carol O’Grady, 61, of Marietta, was wearing red to support her fellow workout pals.

“Wendy asked some of us to come and we thought it was a great idea,” she said.

Malanie See, 75, of Williamstown, was wearing her bright red knit sweater for her brother, who died two years ago.

“He had a bad heart. He also had diabetes, but his heart was bad,” she said.

Diabetes is one risk factor people tend to overlook, said Mayo.

“Unfortunately, we have high rates of diabetes and pre-diabetes in our area. If you have one of those diseases, you have to own it and take care of the disease,” said Mayo.

Williamstown resident Barbara Farley’s aunt is her inspiration for being vigilant about her heart health.

“My aunt died very suddenly from a heart attack,” said Farley, 76.

There had been no previous indication that there was even a problem, said Farley of her aunt, who had raised her.

There are several steps to take to lessen risk factors, pointed out Dr. Shane Parmer, a vascular surgeon at Marietta Memorial Hospital.

“It’s kind of hard to believe people still don’t believe smoking contributes to heart disease,” he said.

In addition to giving up tobacco, patients can do simple things like eat healthy foods, exercise regularly and participate in a vascular screening program, which is offered for free at Marietta Memorial Hospital.