As a specialist in Anatomic and Clinical Pathology at Hill Country Memorial. Shari Addington, MD, knows first-hand the differences in ways men and women perceive heart health.

When it comes to symptoms of heart disease, “One thing that is important to know is that so many symptoms women have are not the characteristic or distinct ones that men have,” Dr. Addington said. “I think a lot of time those can be overlooked. We have a tendency to discount it if a woman is having non-specific symptoms. They are not looked at the same way as if a man were showing up with similar symptoms.”

That perception of discounting non-specific symptoms in women appears to be changing across the medical community. “Yes, I think the medical community is addressing that because we are being made more aware of the symptoms, as are women in general.”

Dr. Addington believes it is important for women to be proactive, not only being aware of the different symptoms associated with heart disease, but to take steps to minimize the risks. She shares some practical advice.

To help minimize the risks of heart disease, “I think it is pretty standard–eat healthy, stay active, and take care of any current health issues you might have such as blood pressure or diabetes, and keeping them in check.”

The most important rule is to “do something.” Small changes and movement everyday can make a difference.

“When I was younger, I kept thinking I just don’t have time. A personal trainer said, ‘Are you telling me you don’t have 10 minutes?’ I thought, well, yes, I do. Just a 10-minute brisk walk lowers blood pressure. Those are the types of activities I try to do in my routine.”

With what time she has, she tries to stay active, whether it’s with yoga, bike riding, walking, or hiking.

“I think we women feel if I can’t give it an hour, I shouldn’t do anything. However, many of my activities are just 10 to 15 minutes. That is import to stress.”

She also avoids fast food, prepares her own “30-minute” meals from scratch and sets aside enough of the meal to bring for lunch the next day. These are small steps, but they can add up to a big difference.

“People discount that it is not enough, but it’s a start.”

Dr. Shari Addington provides anatomic and clinical pathology for Hill Country Memorial. She is board certified by the American Board of Pathology.