Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Is Your Heart Trying To Tell You Something?

email title: This Is A Hot Flash?...sent to some friends on August 2, 2010

"Chest pain, head about to explode, heat and pain radiating down my arms, hands get numb, heat moves over my neck to my jaw, face turns red, dizziness, incredible heat/pressure/pain for 15 minutes until I think I'm gonna die. Holy Mother. I thought hot flashes meant you got sort of hot and sweaty for a couple of minutes. This SUCKS! I get a small one, then it goes away, then another one that's stronger, then it goes away, and they keep building up until I am totally incapacitated and lying on the floor."

One of my goals for the year is to spread the word about heart health. I'll be including healthy recipe ideas on my blog, and also information about recognizing the symptoms of heart failure, tips on reducing heart disease, etc. The message above is an actual email I sent to some friends in August of this year. I mistook my symptoms for early menopause. But it was NOT a hot flash. On August 3, 2010 I had a massive heart attack and was rushed to Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. I had been experiencing these symptoms for 2 weeks and brushed them off.

Unfortunately, many women experiencing chest pain do not realize what's happening to them. They attribute the pain to stress, indigestion, hormonal changes. Heart disease is the #1 killer of women in the U.S. But women are much more likely than men to put off seeing their doctor or to seek emergency treatment. Getting treatment quickly is absolutely critical!

Women's symptoms also vary greatly, which is another reason for misdiagnosis. Here is a list of possible symptoms...(from Women's Heart Foundation)

  • pain, pressure, fullness, discomfort or squeezing in the center of the chest
  • shortness of breath
  • stabbing chest pain
  • radiating pain to shoulders, neck, back, arm or jaw
  • heart palpitations
  • upper abdominal pain
  • nausea, vomiting, severe indigestion
  • sweating
  • dizziness, weakness
  • sudden extreme fatigue
  • panic with feeling of impending doom

I had a hard time articulating my symptoms at first. But I knew something was terribly wrong. I just kept explaining it away.

If you, or any of your friends, family, or acquaintances are experiencing confusing symptoms, please follow up immediately with a doctor. (My doctor appointment was for August 4...I didn't quite make it!)

Women have a tendency to take care of everyone and everything else before themselves. And to ignore their own health. There are no more excuses for me. Taking care of my health comes first every day...taking my meds, going for walks, following a strict heart-healthy diet. I've lost 45 pounds, and my heart has already recovered. I feel incredibly fortunate and blessed.

I am so excited for Thanksgiving this year. All of my family will be here celebrating. I have a lot to be thankful for...great medical care in Boston, amazing support from family and friends, and a second chance. My Thanksgiving dinner will be a big-ass salad (with a little bit of turkey on top!). Nothing tastes as good as being alive!

Hoping for Good Heart Health for Everyone,