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South Dakota Women Challenged to "Go Red" for a Heart Check-up

February 19, 2007

The American Heart Association is challenging South Dakota women to stop heart disease by taking the "Go Red Heart Check-Up," an online assessment of their heart health. It's part of National Heart Month, and this year's American Heart Association focus is a challenge to one million women, to prevent heart disease.

Dr. Tom Stys is an interventional cardiologist with Heart Partners Sanford Health in Sioux Falls. As you might suspect from his job title, he helps patients manage serious heart health risks. Stys says heart disease is the number one killer of women -- and the rate is high in South Dakota.

"We see a lot of vascular disease in South Dakota, and the number of strokes is relatively high, too. I think that reflects the need for increasing awareness. As an interventional cardiologist, I'm too frequently involved in management of patients when their disease is so advanced, with severe blockages that need to be revascularized, using stints or surgery. Our goal these days is to try and get to the patients long before this happens, to prevent things from happening."

Stys admits it can be difficult to diagnose heart disease in women, which makes it all the more important for them to watch for risk factors.

"Women present the typical progressive chest discomfort less frequently than men. Often, it can be a little ache here or there, sometimes shoulder discomfort, back pain or a little shortness of breath -- and we all have those symptoms -- so the diagnosis of coronary heart disease in women is more difficult."

Dr. Stys says prevention is vital, and taking the online test is a good first step. It helps calculate your risk of having a heart attack and/or cardiovascular disease within the next ten years, and offers suggestions to reduce these risks. You can find the "Go Red Heart Check-Up" at

David Law/Jamie Folsom, Public News Service - SD