Every year one in three women will die of heart disease in America, the American Heart Association reports. Heart Disease kills more women in this country than any other disease, yet it’s often at the back of most women’s minds. A presentation hosted by the Melissa Library tried to change that by bringing awareness to the overlooked disease.

“We do know that a lot of men will focus on their heart versus women, and we know that February is healthy heart month so we wanted to go out and target the women and still include the men as well because it is a silent killer amongst a lot of women,” Nurse Practitioner Jennifer Effler said.

Effler works at Questcare Medical Clinic in Melissa. She and Jenifer Branson a physician’s assistant, also at Questcare, gave an hour-long presentation on the symptoms of heart attacks, the dangers high blood pressure and heart disease.

Heart attack symptoms in women are not always the chest pain most people think of, Effler said.

“We tend to ignore it,” she said. “The symptoms are just very vague and they mimic a lot of the things we deal with every day in our lives.”

Symptoms for women experiencing a heart attack can include: fatigue, sleep disturbances, anxiety, lightheadedness, shortness of breath and indigestion. While chest pain can be a symptom of a heart attack, it does not have to be there for a heart attack to occur.

Knowing your numbers is a good way to combat the risk of having a heart attack, Effler explained. This knowledge helps keep cholesterol and blood pressure in a healthy zone.

“There are quite a few people that will come in and say they just had some mild discomfort and they think it’s acid reflux or they mistake it for something that is just very mild,” she said.

When that happens the person will have their blood levels checked and be referred to a specialist.

“(They) come to find they ended up having some kind of stent placed or maybe their cholesterol wasn’t managed, or maybe their blood pressure wasn’t managed,” Effler said. “So not necessarily a heart attack or heart disease, but other things that contribute to the heart attack and heart disease.”

About 10 people showed up for the presentation at Melissa City Hall and one of the big questions was when should someone call 911 if they suspect they’re having a heart attack.

The answer both Effler and Branson said was right away. If someone suspects they are having a heart attack it’s better to be safe than sorry.

“Don’t die of doubt,” Branson said, echoing the slogan of the American Heart Association.

Valerie Enoch is the president of the Friends of Melissa Public Library group and helped organize the presentation.

After the lecture she said even she wasn’t aware of how serious the disease is for women.

“It is worse than I realized it was and it is something that I don’t think a lot about,” she said. “I don’t have a history of it but it does make you think about those seven factors that we can all do a little bit better, reduce our risk a little bit because it’s pretty high.”

Those seven factors people can do to reduce their risk of heart disease are: lose weight, eat better, get active, manage blood pressure, reduce blood sugar, stop smoking, and control cholesterol.

People with diabetes also have an increased risk of developing heart disease.

Effler said anyone who believes they may be at risk for the disease should not immediately go to the emergency room unless they believe they are having a heart attack.

“Come see your primary (physician) first unless you’re having some kind of life threatening event which is like the chest pain, sweating, the things we probably wouldn’t be able to do as an out-patient, but yes primary care is your first stop,” she said. “We can do labs, we can do EKG’s, we can do blood pressure monitoring, we can order medications.”