MetroWest Medical Center Stresses Importance of Women’s Heart Health During American Heart Month

Feb 20, 2024

MetroWest Medical Center is bringing attention to heart health risk factors for women as part of its larger focus for heart health during American Heart Month in February. An estimated one in five female deaths are caused by heart disease, which is the leading cause of death for women in the United States. It’s important for women to be aware of the risk factors, signs and symptoms of heart disease.

“Women present with various symptoms; shortness of breath, tiredness, pain/pressure in their neck, jaw, throat, or upper back pain with or without activities,” explains Burcu Gul Weiner, MD, a cardiologist on the medical staff at MetroWest Medical Center.

She explained that heart disease is an umbrella term which includes many different conditions: 

  • Coronary artery disease: This is the most common type of heart disease in United States and leads to what is known as a heart attack. The heart is a pump and has its own blood supply, which are called coronary arteries. Coronary artery disease is when these vessels are clogged with cholesterol plaque interfering with the flow of blood. 
  • Arrhythmia: The heart beats by an electrical system. An arrhythmia is when the normal electrical activity of heart is interfered with. An example is atrial fibrillation which is characterized by irregular heartbeats. 
  • Heart valve disease: Heart valves are tissues that keep blood flowing in the right direction. Some of the most common forms of valve disease are mitral valve or aortic valve stenosis, or a thickening, tightening of the heart valves. There is also valve regurgitation, or what is called a leaky valve, blood flowing in the wrong direction.
  • Heart failure: There are two major forms of Heart Failure. This refers to when the muscles of the heart become weak or stiffened “pump failure.” 

The traditional risk factors for heart disease are family history, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, sedentary lifestyle and obesity. These risk factors affect women and men equally, says Dr. Gul Weiner.

“Age is a risk factor for women – the older you are, the higher risk of heart disease. Women in general developed coronary artery disease 10 years later in life than men unless they have diabetes or are smokers,” she says. 

Mental stress and depression affect women’s hearts more than men, explains Dr. Gul Weiner. Depression makes it difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle and follow recommended treatment. Low levels of estrogen after menopause pose a significant risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease in the blood vessels. 

Fortunately, you can take steps to reduce your risk of developing heart disease, notes Dr. Gul Weiner.

“You cannot change aging or family history, so focus on what you can change. These steps include getting more exercise. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of exercise per week such as 30 minutes of moderate intensity walking per day,” she says. 

Dr. Gul Weiner advises stay away from “white foods” like white sugar, flour, rice, bread, pasta (carbohydrate/starch). No soda, not even diet. Use portion control with your meals and eat more vegetables and greens. Stop smoking, reduce your stress level and limit your alcohol consumption. 

“You know yourself better than anyone else. If you feel something is wrong, do not ignore it and hope it will go away. Talk to your doctor,” concludes Dr. Gul Weiner.

For more information about cardiovascular services offered at MetroWest Medical Center, visit Also, sign up for handy heart-smart information for a chance to win a smart tablet and download a heart-healthy snack booklet! To take a free online heart health assessment, visit

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