It's time to roll out the red carpet for heart health awareness in women.

And because red is the color of blood and represents vitality, strength and power, it is a powerful way to represent healthy hearts. But what is all the fuss about? Isn't heart disease a problem mostly seen in men? The answer is no. In fact, more women than men die of heart disease every year. This may be because heart disease is different in women.

Dr. Nina's What You Need to Know: About heart health in women and how to put up the red light to stop premature deaths in ourselves, our mothers, our wives, our sisters, our daughters and our girlfriends:

What symptoms are seen in women?

Chest pain, pressure and discomfort are the most common symptoms of a heart attack in both men and women. However, in women, they may not always be as severe and may not raise red flags. Additionally, women are more likely to have atypical symptoms that may be completely unrelated to chest pain. They include:

•Pain and discomfort in the neck, shoulder, upper back or abdomen

•Shortness of breath

•Nausea or vomiting

•Sweating

•Lightheadedness or dizziness

•Unusual fatigue

Many women seek treatment after significant heart damage has occurred. If you are experiencing these symptoms, seek emergency medical care immediately. It may save your life. Do not let them become a red herring.

What are the risk factors for heart disease in wo-men?

Although men are from Mars, and women are from Venus, they share the traditional risk factors for heart disease. These include hypertension, elevated cholesterol and obesity. How-ever, there are a number of other factors that are more harmful to women than men:

•Smoking

•Stress and depression - more difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

•Metabolic syndrome. A disorder of energy utilization and storage, diagnosed as having 3 out of 5 of the following medical conditions: abdominal (central) obesity, hypertension, diabetes, elevated cholesterol and elevated trigylcerides.

• Does estrogen provide a "get out of jail" card until menopause?

Women younger than age 65 who have a family history of heart disease should pay particularly close attention to risk factors for heart disease.

And although estrogen is be-lieved to be protective against heart disease, it is not bulletproof. Women of all ages should take heart disease seriously.

What can women do to reduce their risk of heart disease?

•Stay active and exercise 30 to 60 minutes per day on most days of the week.

•Maintain a healthy weight.

•Don't smoke and avoid second-hand smoke.

•Eat healthy. Decrease your intake of saturated fats, cholesterol and salt.

•If you have hypertension, monitor it carefully and take your prescribed medications.

•Omega-3 fatty acids. There is evidence that women with an elevated risk for heart disease can decrease it by eating foods rich omega-3 fatty acids or taking supplements. Talk with your doctor if this could benefit you.

Let's make this a "red letter day" and become familiar with the differences in risk factors and symptoms for heart disease in women. We do not want to be "caught red-handed" by it. We should change how we are "seeing red" and, instead, "Go Red" as a sign for heart health awareness in women, hope for the future, solidarity with women who have heart disease, and the charitable goodness of those who publicly support the movement.

The Heart Institute at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center will hold its seventh Red Dress Reception from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Smithville Inn, Route 9, Historic Smithville. Event proceeds benefit AtlantiCare Heart Institute Heart Heroes. For more information or to register, call the AtlantiCare Access Center at 888-569-1000.

I wanted to give a piece of my heart to each of you as I think of your hearts as I write - enjoy all the sweethearts around you this month - and heart-to-heart … take good care of yours.

Dr Nina Radcliff, of Galloway Township, is a physician anesthesiologist, television medical contributor and textbook author. Email questions on general medical topics to her at drninaradcliff@aol.com