Did you know that heart disease is the number 1 killer of women? Heart disease kills five times as many women as breast cancer, yet most people probably don't know this startling fact.
I certainly didn't, and I didn't know the warning signs of heart attack in women. If I'd thought about it, I'd have thought of what many of us think of as typical heart attack symptoms -- chest pain, pain radiating down the left arm, and so on. So, it came as quite a surprise when a routine EKG done before eye surgery indicated that I'd probably had a heart attack. Cardiac catheterization confirmed it.
As my cardiologist asked questions, we decided that the heart attack had probably occurred one night when I thought I was having a severe bout of indigestion. I had sharp, intermittent pains in the center of my chest, in the same spot I'd had pains before from reflux. There were a few other symptoms that I also dismissed as reflux:
- The pains made it hard to catch my breath.
- I was a bit nauseous and dizzy.
- I broke out in a cold sweat.
From all of this, we also determined that some chest pains I'd had since then were angina, not indigestion. At his direction, when I have that type of pain now, I take something for indigestion, and if it doesn't stop the pain, I use nitroglycerine tabs under my tongue. When that doesn't work, I need to go to the hospital to be sure I'm not having another heart attack. I've been hospitalized once, when the angina simply wouldn't stop. They monitored my cardiac enzymes closely, gave me oxygen, and eventually got the angina stopped. Fortunately, it was "just angina," not another heart attack.
All of this led me to be determined to learn about heart disease, especially heart disease in women. It's my body, and I firmly believe that I'm ultimately responsible for my health, not my doctors. I don't want my doctors to make decisions FOR me; I want them to make decisions WITH me. For that to work, I have to be an educated patient.
I hope you'll join me in working to be better educated about heart disease. Education is power. It allows us to work with our doctors and treatment partners, and it helps take away some of the fear and uncertainty.
Published On: February 02, 2010