Heart Disease: How Women Can Protect Themselves

How to protect yourself from this surprisingly common killer of women.
A Woman at Risk
woman jogging in winter

Every year, without fail, Josephine Richau of San Francisco had a Pap smear. Every two years, she had a mammogram. But fret about her moderately high cholesterol level? Worry about a heart attack? About as often as she thought of getting prostate cancer.

"I was raised with the concept that men were the ones who had heart attacks," she says. "I worried more about my husband having one. It's the last thing I expected to happen to me."

Then on June 4, 1997, everything that Josephine thought she knew about heart disease changed.

She was at her grandson's school, waiting for his junior high graduation ceremonies to begin. After searching for her husband and son, who were running late, she felt a massive pain in her chest. "It was one I had never had before," she says.

The pain, centered in the middle of her chest, eventually subsided. Tests later showed that Josephine, 61, had suffered a mild heart attack. Three weeks later, surgeons placed a tiny piece of metal inside a coronary artery to keep it from closing.

She had survived the scare of her life. And she learned something many women don't until it's too late: It can happen to you.

Continued on page 2:  The Biggest Killer