A local doctor says many people think of a man when they think of someone having a heart attack, but cardiovascular disease is the number one killer for both men and women.

Doctor Srilatha Ayirala, a cardiologist at the Heart and Vascular Center, said it’s important for women to know the symptoms of a heart attack, risk factors, and ways to prevent one from happening. She said around half of all women don’t experience typical symptoms like chest pain and dropping.

“In women, most commonly, they present atypically, like shortness of breath, unusual fatigue, dyspepsia, abdominal pain, and palpitations,” Dr. Ayirala said.

Dr. Ayirala said it wasn’t until recently that it became more common in women. She said women are smoking more now than they were a few decades ago, and that can be a factor.

“Even smoking one cigarette a day increases your risk tremendously compared to non-smokers,” Dr. Ayirala said. “At time same time, getting exposed to smoking passively also increases your risk.”

Besides not smoking, there are some other things that can be done to help prevent a heart attack from happening.

“Like a heart-healthy diet,” she said. “Exercising 30 minutes per-a-day at least five days a week, keeping hypertension, diabetes, cholesterol under control always helps.”

Dr. Ayirala said there are risk factors that you just cannot help like age, sex, and a family history of heart disease. She said going to the hospital if you think you’re having a heart attack can help prevent damage to your heart.

“If you come to the hospital early, if they’re diagnosed on time, the blockages can be opened,” Dr. Ayirala said. “And muscle can be saved, and it minimized the heart damage. You can walk away with a normal heart function.”

She said primary care plays a factor in preventing heart attacks by running certain tests and sending them to a cardiologist if needed.