Pola is 53, extremely fit, engages in a 30-40 minute cardio workout daily, and predominant eats vegetarian except for fish. Her cholesterol is perfect and she is at her ideal weight. Which is why when she started experiencing an annoying ache in her collarbone, shoulder and arms, she initially attributed it to over exercising with weights. Fortunately for her, the ache persisted and she listened to her intuition and sought attention. Still it came as a shock to discover that she had a “widow maker” lesion (>90%) in the main artery of her heart.
“I am still shocked. At first I felt very helpless. I lead an extremely healthy lifestyle and none of what I am doing seem to matter in a face of heart disease. But I am wrong. Not everything is in our control (thank God) and we have to accept it. But we are powerful in our willingness to let go of our frenzied attempts to control the uncontrollable. We are powerful in being attuned to our bodies and soul and in being responsible.”
Pola’s story highlights a problem that requires ongoing education. When we hear about heart disease we often think it’s primarily a man’s problem. In fact, heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States.
Did you know that 1 in 3 women over the age of 20 has some form of cardiovascular disease and 1 in 4 women die from heart disease in the United States (National Heart Lung and Blood Institute)? It might also surprise you to learn that a woman dies every single minute of every day because of heart disease, as stated by the American Heart Association. Therefore, it is very important to recognize the signs and symptoms that may signal heart disease and to see your doctor for correct diagnosis and prompt treatment.
Women usually do not have the same symptoms as men and sudden death is more common among women with heart attack. The older a woman gets, the more at risk she is to get heart disease. But women of all ages should be concerned about heart disease and take preventive steps by practicing a healthy lifestyle.
Symptoms of Heart Attack:
- Chest pressure – squeezing, fullness, stabbing, burning
- Pain radiating to the jaw, neck, shoulder, back and arm
- Pounding heart, change in rhythm
- Difficulty breathing
- Nausea, vomiting, heartburn, abdominal pain
- Cold sweat, clammy skin
- Sudden onset of weakness
- Sleep disturbances
The best advice is to be mindful of your symptoms, recognize the typical symptoms, but also seek attention when you are experiencing atypical symptoms, especially if they are repetitive and persistent. Paula’s life depended on the fact that she took action and did not ignore or dismiss her symptoms. Remember – being in perfect health is not a vaccine against heart disease.