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,


Kwana said...

Thanks for this important post.

Penny Watson said...

Thanks, Kwana! :)

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

Wow - very important post. Yes, many women think their symptoms are everything but a heart attack. Sometimes a heart attack feels like a bad toothache - believe it or not.

Lindsay said...

Thank you for spreading the message and your own personal story. Great to hear that you are doing better!

Penelope said...

Hi Julia...yes, jaw pain/tooth ache can be one of the symptoms. I thought it only happened on the left side, and I had the pain on both sides of my jaw. Dumb, dumb, dumb. Now I know better!

Penelope said...

Hi Lindsay...thanks!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this important information! You are such an inspiration!!

Penny Watson said...

Hi Lena! Thanks for stopping by! So happy for you and your 5-star review this week....woo hoo! :)


Maeve Greyson said...

Excellent post! My mother was a heart transplant recipient due to congestive heart failure. It bought her a few extra years, but not long. I've also battled with heart disease and have to remain vigilant when it comes to my health. You are so right about women taking care of everyone but themselves. They've got to start realizing that taking care of themselves first - DOES take care of everyone else. Take it from one who knows. Putting herself last killed my mother.

Penny Watson said...

Maeve...thanks so much for stopping by. I am so, so sorry about your mom. It's shocking to deal with such a serious life-and-death situation, but for me this wake-up call has been really positive and good. I love my walks and I have gotten used to eating my healthy diet. Good luck to you and your heart health!

Caroline Clemmons said...

Penelope, great idea to expand awareness. I had a female neighbor only 42 who died of a heart attack. The symptoms are so different for women that many women aren't taken seriously or don't take themselves seriously. One friend went to the doctor for her "gall bladder" problem and he told her she was having a heart attach at that moment.

Lilly Gayle said...

Great post, Penelope. So glad your story turned out so well.

Penny Watson said...

Caroline and Lilly...thanks for stopping by! I am off for walk #1 of the day! :)

lydia Storm said...

What a great post! I look forward to all the healthy recipes. :)

Penny Watson said...

thanks, Lydia...I am looking for one for Thanksgiving!