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Dr. Oz performs health test on ABC7's Ellen Leyva

September 6, 2011 12:30:06 AM PDT
We've come to know Mehmet Oz on television as Dr. Oz. My colleague David Ono and I got the rare opportunity to spend time with the cardiothoracic surgeon, a man who has spent years of his life devoted to saving the lives of others.

At the age of 44, Bethann suffered a massive heart attack that changed her life forever.

She ignored her symptoms and now a heart pump is her constant companion, keeping her alive until she can undergo a heart transplant operation.

"She's never complained, she's strong as an ox," her father said.

Dr. Oz says that's just the problem. Women don't speak up.

"That's the classic story of American woman," Dr. Oz said. "Strong as an ox, never complains and they take themselves to the grave half the time because of those attributes."

Much like me, Bethann is like many women over 40 years old: a busy, working mother with a diet that sometimes favors convenience and a family history of heart disease.

Dr. Oz says the first thing he wants me to do to assess my health is get my blood and cholesterol levels tested, plus other things like blood sugar and blood counts.

Once those results were in, he prepared me for yet another test, an electrocardiogram, or EKG.

I was a little nervous, but that's not uncommon. Doctors call that the "white coat effect," named after a physician's attire. My heart rate was even faster - call it the Dr. Oz effect.

Still, he delivered good news.

The results showed that my total cholesterol is a bit high. Women should aim for under 200, but the ratio of good to bad cholesterol is good. That means my HDL, or healthy cholesterol, is protecting my heart.

It was a relief knowing my EKG checks out and my cholesterol is manageable. Dr. Oz told me there are steps I can take, that every woman can take, to help lower bad cholesterol, steps like exercising 20 minutes a day, taking a daily fish oil supplement, eating healthy fats like nuts and managing stress with meditation.

The most sobering statistic is finding out one in four women will die from heart disease. Just like Bethann learned the hard way, we can't ignore our bodies warning signs.

Dr. Oz says symptoms like shortness of breath are the number one sign of trouble for women.

Obesity is the number one risk factor, which in turn causes high cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure.

For most women, losing weight will start to bring down those numbers.

Dr. Oz says women have a better chance at reversing the damage.

"Women's blood vessels are... smaller, they're dainty little things. But they tend to spasm more, they tend to be less resilient to stress and more likely to have problems if you suddenly load them up with lots of cholesterol and blood sugar and the like," Dr. Oz said. "If women change those risk factors, because they're vessels are flexible naturally, they grow again, they rekindle themselves and recover, because women are more resilient."

In his heart of hearts, Dr. Oz would love to see women put their health first.

"If I can get women to just stand tall in their own presence and understand that their power is there and they are worth it, then they can speak up a little bit, which means people like me, the men, would like to hear you a little bit better, and it's ultimately when change will happen in America," Dr. Oz said.

"The Dr. Oz Show" joins ABC7 starting Monday, Sept. 12, 2011 at 3 p.m.

Do you have a question for Dr. Oz? Click here to submit your question, then watch Eyewitness News at 4 p.m. beginning the week of Sept. 12 to see if he answers it.

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