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At the risk of sounding sexist (not to mention obvious), it must be said: women are not the same as men. Beyond the obvious, the most important differences between the sexes are matters of the heart—and nothing to do with romance.

We’ve all seen movies in which a man grabs at his chest and then keels over from a heart attack. Not so in women…at least not typically. In fact, only about three in 10 women report chest pains in conjunction with heart attacks.

In women, symptoms are more subtle than in men. The fair sex more often experience fatigue, heartburn, indigestion, sudden dizziness, and troubled sleep—usually over a period of hours, days, or weeks. The more frequently such warnings occur, the more likely you are suffering a heart attack. Get thee to Pattaya’s nearest--or best--hospital.

A common ailment among women is abnormally low energy. It is easily written off as lack of sleep, being overworked, having a poor diet or some kind of bug. But it may well be an indication of an impending heart attack.

In one recent study it was found that more than 70 percent of women reported being plagued by unusual loss of energy in the days or weeks prior to suffering a heart attack; a second study determined nearly 50 percent of women with heart failure said they had trouble sleeping over a period of days or weeks prior to their attacks.

If you are not suffering with asthma or emphysema, but nevertheless have difficulty taking a deep breath, it may be an early sign a heart attack is in your future. Same too for shortness of breath in those times when you are not necessarily exerting yourself.

Like men, women sometimes mistake a heart attack for heartburn or indigestion. That is true for about four out of 10 women stricken. In some women, discomfort arises in the form of nausea or vomiting—two signs that often accompany a heart attack.

Again like men, some women feel sharp or tingling chest pains, while others report pain or discomfort elsewhere in their bodies before or during a heart attack. Watch for pressure, tightness, aching, or burning in your upper back, neck, shoulders, arms, jaw or throat.

Another symptom to be aware of is dizziness or light-headedness. It cannot always be attributed to menopause. Such signs were reported by almost 40 percent of women who had heart attacks, while another 40 percent broke out in a cold sweat. Check with your doctor rather than shrugging it off.

Recognizing the difference between an inconsequential irregularity and a genuine sign of an impending heart attack is often difficult for men as well as women. In general, everyone is familiar with his or her normal aches and pains, reactions to food, effects of stress or physical activities. Remain conscious of such routine experiences so that you are able to recognize when something abnormal is happening to you.

Women with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, a smoking habit, or a sedentary lifestyle should be especially alert to monitoring indications of a heart attack.

While genetics play a role in an estimated 25 percent of heart attacks, lifestyle plays a far greater role—and that you can do something about. To preclude the onset of heart disease, strokes and heart attacks, eat less red meat and more fish, fruit and vegetables. People who eat more than 100 grams of red meat a day increase their risk of fatal heart disease by almost 30 percent compared with those who eat less than 150 grams a week. Eating less meat, including sausage and bacon, also reduces the risk of high cholesterol, diabetes, and colon cancer.

It’s also a good idea to limit alcohol. One glass of wine or beer a day may help protect your heart and your entire vascular system, and may raise levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, according to research. More than that may be unhealthy.

If your life in Pattaya is not an eternal holiday, take a break. Time off from work or from constant day-to-day activities can cut your heart attack risk by almost a third. Commitment and goals are great, but over-commitment may produce chronic stress and can lead to heart disease. In the meantime, if you can’t take an extended break anytime soon, do this: Sit or lie back, close your eyes, and concentrate on your heart while taking slow breaths. Imagine a tranquil scene while consciously breathing in and out and holding the image for 10 minutes. Doing that every day may not be the same as a holiday, but you and your heart will be rewarded.

Other heart healthy tips:

*You know the importance of a positive attitude, but did you know that such a mind set is good for your heart as well as your overall health? Stop complaining or feeling sorry for yourself. Such behaviour can triple your risk of a heart attack. Seek uplifting experiences and do things you love, particularly activities with friends or family.

*Exercise. Women who walk, go to the gym, practice aerobics, etc., have fewer heart attacks and strokes, lower blood pressure, and better cholesterol levels. You’ll also look and feel younger.

*Finally, ensure you get a good night’s sleep (about eight hours is optimum for your heart), and eat a balanced diet. Both are critical for a healthy heart, body and mind. A high-fibre diet can work wonders for your heart. It improves cholesterol, lowers blood pressure, and reduces belly fat. One study showed that people who consumed the most fibre (particularly from fruit and whole grains), reduced their risk level by 18 percent compared to those with minimal fibre intake. As a bonus, fibre may help prevent breast cancer. So chow down on oatmeal with blueberries and walnuts for breakfast. Eat an apple or two every day. Make sure your lunch and dinner include broccoli, spinach, kale, and whatever healthy food your heart desires.