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Women: how your culture can hurt your heart

It's a scenario thousands of women will find themselves in this year and one in three women will die from it.

We're talking about a heart attack and two years ago on her way back from a family vacation Dominga Flanagin showed symptoms she might be having one.

"It's was a very scary time, situation...place to be in," she said. "I got a really bad pain in my throat, right here and it went down my arm."

Flanagin ignored her symptoms until hours later, when the pain woke her up.

"I came out to my living room and sat on the couch trying to make that pain go away and I Googled women's heart attacks," she said.

Flanagin's sister later picked her up and took her to the hospital. Luckily for her she wasn't having a heart attack but she did have a major problem…a nearly 95 percent blockage in part of her heart. She had to have a stent put in.

"We always think, it's never going to happen to me...you would think this could never happen," Flanagin said.

"Most of the women that I see come for the first time after an event...I have yet to see someone to come in and say I would really like to be screened for coronary heart disease," Dr. Imad Issawi said.

Dr. Issawi is Flanagin's cardiologist and says she had some major heart disease risk factors like: family history of heart attacks, high blood pressure and she smokes. Her mexican ethnicity also plays a role. Among women age 20 and older about half of African American women and one third of Latinas have heart disease.

Dr. issawi says the reason why is simple.

"Dietary issues and poor habits," he notes.

The American Heart Association says 76 percent of Mexican-American women age 20 and older are overweight or obese.

"We neglect ourselves to take care of the people we love," Flanagin said.

According to AHA, Hispanics are also more likely to delay care or drop out of treatment when symptoms disappear...which is what Flanagin did after her heart scare. But when Dr. Issawi heard heard she was still smoking, he gave her an impromptu check up to remind her what her heart used to look like.

"It's scarier now then it was afterwards to see that it was blocked that bad," Flanagin said.

Dr. Issawi says there's things you can do right now so that you're not a patient in his waiting room:

1. EAT RIGHT

2. EXERCISE

3. CHECK YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE AND CHOLESTEROL

4. DON'T SMOKE.

Smoking is a habit Flanagin has vowed to break.

"I know I can do this," she said. "I know I will do this because those pictures were so real to know that's what's happening inside of me."

A situation dominga and her doctor don't want to find her in again.

"I really urge them to realize that they are at risk, much like men...even if they don't have any symptoms," Dr. Issawi said.

"Listen to your body," Flanagin said. "We do have to come first and we do have to take care of ourselves in order to be here for the ones we love and care for."


February marks Go Red for Women month.

It's a campaign urging us to keep our heart health in check.

If you want to learn how you can prevent heart disease, head over to to the Go Red for Women Luncheon happening Friday, February 3 at the Horizons Conference Center in Saginaw.

NBC25's Kristen Aguirre will host the event.

Click here for more information.

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