Life Lessons: Women's heart health

Posted: 5:00 AM EDT Jul 02, 2013

Heart disease is the number one killer of women, taking more lives than all cancers combined, but many women don't know what's fact and what's fiction when it comes to heart health.

We test your heart IQ.

KC Maurer is used to being on the go. She's been all over the world, but one of her biggest accomplishments happened outside her doorstep: completing the New York City Marathon.

"I did 489 miles worth of training," KC Maurer said.

What's even more impressive, she lost 110 pounds after having three heart attacks at age 40.

"Heart attack number one was absolutely a wake-up call for me," says Maurer.

Like many women, KC didn't know all the signs; do you?

True or false, chest pain is the most common symptom of a heart attack?

False, the first sign is often stomachache, nausea, vomiting, jaw or shoulder pain, sweating, or fatigue.

Question two - what happens in pregnancy can affect your heart risk later?

"Women going through pregnancy who have diabetes during pregnancy, who have preeclampsia, who have high blood pressures during pregnancy have a dramatically increased risk of future stroke and heart attack events," explains Holly Andersen, MD.

Question three - all women should take a baby aspirin a day to prevent their risk?

False, studies show only those with a history of heart disease or other risk factors should.

True or false, your waistline matters more than your weight when it comes to heart risk?

This is true.

"Measure yourself; it's not a tailor's measurement. Measure yourself around the waistline around where the navel is," says Dr. Andersen. "Ideally, women should have less than 29 inches. If you're less than 33 or 34, you're probably ok."

KC's advice is simple.

"I try to laugh every day, I try to see friends," says Maurer.

An American Heart Association survey found only 53% of women would call 911 if they believed they were having a heart attack.

Another recent survey found that less than one in five physicians knew that more women than men die each year from heart disease.