Carrie Fisher death highlights women and heart disease

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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - Movie icon Carrie Fisher died at just 60 years old Tuesday after a heart attack. This is yet another reminder that heart issues are the number one killer of women in America.

Getting regular exercise, sticking to a healthy diet, not smoking and keeping an eye on your cholesterol are all factors that you can control.

“There’s been some studies that have shown that if you have a job where you’re sitting too many hours per day and not physically active, that becomes a risk factor for having heart problems,” clinical cardiologist Chris Rowan said. Adding that a brisk 45-minute walk once a day is enough.

However, there are some factors that are out of your hands.

"People who've had a male relative before the age of 55, or a female relative before the age of 65 with a heart attack have a higher instance of heart disease," Dr.Rowan said.

Menopause is also a factor for women.

“Women do seem to get heart disease at an older age, after the age of 65, so there's a protective effect of estrogen, but once menopause comes in, they're not protected at all,” Dr. Rowan said.

Heart attack signs for women are not always obvious, and they are different than they are for men.

"Heart burn which is new or different, chest pain, shoulder pain, jaw pain, back pain, which is different than they had before," Dr. Rowan said of possible heat attack signs for women.

Any pain out of the ordinary should be checked. If it does not feel right, it probably isn’t.

"People know their body, and they know when something new is going on, and pay attention to that, make sure that you have a doctor that you can go see to make sure that that's not something to be more worried about."

You can ease that worry by living heart healthy, but the best thing you can do is pay attention to the warning signs.

“You should never ignore chest pain, so chest pain that comes on with exertion, goes away with rest, keeps happening more frequently, more often, is something you definitely should see a doctor about,” Dr. Rowan said.