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Women Take Heart!

West Penn Allegheny Health System Offers Unique Array of Cardiovascular Services for Women. It was 14 years ago when Mary Ann Hirt first began to experience problems with her heart. "Out of the blue, my heart started to pound so fast and erratically that I thought I was going to die," she recalls. "I managed to call 911 as I was collapsing and was rushed to the hospital." Mary Ann soon learned that she had atrial fibrillation—an abnormal heart rhythm that is potentially life threatening. "I was taken back when I got the diagnosis," she said. "To my knowledge, there wasn't any history of heart disease in my family. I didn't think this could happen to me." Like Mary Ann, millions of other women are not aware they are at risk for developing a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular diseases. But the facts tell a different story. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in American women, killing almost twice as many women than all forms of cancer combined. "Women experience heart disease differently than men," said Indu Poornima, MD, a cardiologist at Allegheny General Hospital and medical director for the Women's Heart Center at West Pest Penn Allegheny Health System's Cardiovascular Institute. "The symptoms are often different and women are more inclined to dismiss symptoms when they arise."