She grabbed her chest, winced in pain. Begins to lose consciousness and falls to the ground. Classic signs that a person is suffering a heart attack right? You see it all the time on television. Decades of drama shows have burned into societies brain that this is how a true heart attack occurs. Well I am here to tell you that what you think you know is WRONG!! Not only is what you know inaccurate but it could be deadly!
Tomorrow, February 1st is the 10th National Wear Red Day for GO Red for Women’s Heart Disease. This special campaign by the National Heart Association is not new to me. I wear red every February 1st in honor of my Grandmother who had severe heart disease that took her life 8 years ago. However this year I will be adding another name to the women I will honor. My dear friend Carrie, who is only 44, recently suffered a heart attack. When I first heard this shocking news I was floored. She is so young and relatively healthy. I wasn’t aware if heart disease ran in family but all I kept thinking was she is soooo young. Thankfully she has amazing doctors who are taking care of her and she is on the road to recovery as I type. I was extremely honored when she reached out to me and asked if I would share her story with my readers. She wanted to do this because as she put it “It wasn’t like you see on TV and women need to know that”.
Her story doesn’t start like you would think. She had been having discomfort in her arms, chest and back since before Thanksgiving. Here is her description of how she felt….
“I had discomfort in my shoulder and arm. I would think it was from sleeping on it wrong and it could be either arm.
Sometimes I would have discomfort in the chest and it would travel across my shoulder and down the arm, or I would get discomfort that would come from the upper stomach and across my chest. That why I thought it might be gall bladder. This could happen 3 or 4 times a day. It could also happen when I put pressure on my stomach, like squatting to clean out the litter box or getting clothes out of dryer. Sometimes the discomfort wasn’t too bad I could sit down for a few and it would go away and other times the discomfort would get bad and I would breath slowly and the discomfort would ease off. I know I use discomfort a lot but there wasn’t any pain it was a lot of discomfort and sometimes pressure.” ~ Carrie
Like many women she chalked up symptoms as somehow she slept wrong or some other benign reason that would resolve itself. As women we are so quick to take care of others, our spouse, our kids, our parents, our friends. However, when it comes to ourselves we can find every reason and excuse in the book to not go to the doctor or seek medical attention. On the day Carrie went to the hospital she almost left because of this line of thinking. Here is her description of that day….
“The morning I went to the hospital I woke up with a lot of discomfort and pressure in the chest, both shoulders and arms, also discomfort that I could feel in the neck and jaw area, and across the back of my shoulder blades. Yes I am still thinking gall bladder or something because it wasn’t pain like they show on TV, that’s why I didn’t want the ambulance called. By the time I got to the hospital it had eased off and I felt silly for going. My EKG showed nothing and my blood pressure was good. They did take blood and they said when the blood work came back it showed some damage but I didn’t know till the following day I had a heart attack. They did a heart catheterization and they told me I needed a stint. Before they did the stint I had another heart attack 3 days later. Thank God I was already in the hospital.” ~ Carrie
Her experience really sheds light on how much TV shows affect our perception of things. We have all seen those heart attacks on TV. They are so dramatic but the truth is that isn’t how it always happens and it surely isn’t how it happens more often with women. Here are the real symptoms of a heart attack:
Sadly a lot of the symptoms listed above we ignore until it is too late. We ignore them because we don’t think it could happen to us. Here are some shocking facts about Heart Disease in Women from GoRedForWomen.org that will make you reevaluate your thinking :
Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women – mothers, sisters, daughters, friends – and is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined.
~ Heart disease causes one in three women’s deaths each year, killing approximately one woman every minute.
~ An estimated 43 million women in the U.S. are affected by heart disease.
~ Ninety percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease.
~ Since 1984, more women than men have died each year from heart disease and the gap between men and women’s
survival continues to widen.
~ While one in 31 American women dies from breast cancer each year, heart disease causes one in three deaths each year. WOW!!
Important Multicultural Stats:
~ Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for African-American women, killing nearly 100,000 annually
~ Of African-American women ages 20 and older, 46.9 percent have cardiovascular disease; only ONE in FIVE believes she is
personally at risk, thinking heart disease couldn’t happen to “someone like me.”
~ Research shows that nearly 50 percent of African-American women are aware of the signs and symptoms of a heart attack.
~ Only 43 percent of African-American women and 44 percent of Hispanic women know that heart disease is their greatest
health risk, compared with 60 percent of white women.
~ On average, Hispanic women are likely to develop heart disease 10 years earlier than non-Hispanic white women.
I don’t know about you but these statistics are a HUGE wake up call for me. We as women have got to start putting ourselves at the top of the list! NO MORE EXCUSES!!!
I know that all this information can be overwhelming and deciding to make changes in your life can be daunting.
So here are a few ideas for how you can get started moving in the right direction.
1. QUIT SMOKING!!! This is a no brainer and if you smoke you have heard this before. I know it can be hard to do but I know you can do it!!! I believe in you!!
2. CUT BACK ON PROCESSED FOOD!! This to can be a challenge. As a mom microwaveable meals can be a life safer when you are short on time. However, did you know that 75 percent of the sodium in the average American diet comes from salt added to processed or restaurant foods. HOLY MOLY BATEMAN!! That is a lot!! You can lower your salt intake by reading the nutritional label of the food you buy and choosing lower sodium options.
3. EAT SEASONAL VEGETABLES!! Sure not everyone loves veggies but with all the different ways to cook them and season them, you should give them all a shot. To get the most nutrition from the veggies you eat buy what is in season now. One of my favorite sites for help finding fresh fruits and veggies is PickYourOwn.org. They have an amazing database of your local pick your own farms, recipes, helpful tips and a Harvest Calender for Every State. What makes this site even better is that is has information for the United States, Canada, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and other countries. AMAZING!! Buying locally is also a two-fold experience. Not only are you making healthier choices but you are supporting your local small business owner! Win-Win! :0)
4. GET A MOVE ON!! Again I am right there with ya. I have a busy schedule with 5 kids and I am not a huge fan of exercise. BUT there are small things you can do to increase your fitness level. Park farther away from the entrance of where you are going. Take the stairs once a day instead of the elevator. Take your kids for a walk after dinner. Small changes can make the biggest difference!!
5. MAKE IT A FAMILY AFFAIR!! With childhood obesity skyrocketing as we speak, making healthy changes to your life can have a positive affect on your whole family. Talk to your family about making healthier choices. Get your kids involved with making dinner, grocery shopping and getting exercise. Teach your kids the importance of reading labels and what those numbers mean. Have them help plan healthy meals along with helping to make them. Lastly find out what they love to do outside and go do it with them. My kids love to ride bikes.
You may not realize it but making these small changes will not only change your life but the life of your children as well. Children learn best by example; So be the change you want to see in them!!! And remember parenting isn’t about perfection. We all have busy lives but with some of these small changes we can be healthier & happier while…..Making It All Work!!