Women, You're Not Immune to Heart Disease

1SHARES

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
10/25/2008 6:04 AM   :  52 comments

Recently I received an email about the Go Red for Women Campaign from the American Heart Association. Reading through the information, I was shocked to discover that more women die from heart disease (heart attacks, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases) than the next FIVE leading causes of death combined, including breast cancer. This in an age where early intervention is the difference between life and death.

A little less than 5 years ago, at the age of 42, I was diagnosed with hypertension, high cholesterol levels, and high triglycerides. My doctor prescribed an anti-hypertensive and urged me to lose weight. Fortunately my hypertension responded to the medication, which told me at the time that really I didn't need to lose weight because my high blood pressure was being managed. Every three months I would reluctantly head back to her office for my follow-up exam only to hear the pleas for me get my weight down and work in some physical activity.

It took 12 months, and no longer able being to wear my favorite pants, for me to hear my own wake-up call. I am a firm believer that education is crucial to understanding how to transform one's life. I started reading everything I could about how to change the path that I was on. As I researched this topic, I uncovered some shocking information.

So why is heart disease so deadly for women?

For one thing, women’s symptoms can be quite different from a man's. We all have seen the medical drama where a man is depicted with classic symptoms of a heart attack--complaints of chest pains, pain in the jaw, pain radiating down the left arm, shortness of breath and breaking out in a cold sweat--only to be rushed to the ER to be saved.

The same CANNOT be said for women. Their symptoms are less characteristic in nature and many of the symptoms can be related to many other medical conditions.

They include:

  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty in sleeping
  • Shortness of breath
  • Indigestion/stomach issues
  • Anxiety or a feeling of impending doom.


Because these warning signs are not the classic heart attack symptoms many of us have come to know, many health care providers fail to diagnose a heart attack or cardiovascular disease in woman who presents to the ER with these signs. Hopefully, with all the new advances in women’s health issues this trend is changing.

So what can we, as women, do to prevent developing cardiovascular disease?

  • Don’t smoke! Smoking is a major cause of not only heart disease but lung disease as well.

  • Diet is definitely an area in which we all should monitor closely. Eating more fruits and veggies, less saturated fats, checking labels for ‘trans fats’ (AKA partially hydrogenated oils), eating fish and nuts, which contain the healthy monounsaturated/polyunsaturated fats, and reducing sodium intake are all means to preventing or slowing progression of heart disease.

  • Getting in adequate amounts of cardio and strength training activity is another means. Something as simple as 30 minute brisk walk 5-6 days a week and strength training 2 times a week, will get you well on the path to a healthier you. As with every exercise program, it is best to get clearance from your doctor prior to engaging any activity, especially if you currently are under medical supervision.

  • Managing stress is another area many of us need to manage better. This is where exercise helps me the most. When life gets just a little too overwhelming, going for a nice run or walk helps me cope just a tad better to these obstacles.

  • Managing your hypertension in conjunction with your health care provider is also important. Make sure you are taking your medication as prescribed and follow up with your doctor is crucial, as well as keeping communication between doc and patient opened.

    PLEASE do NOT hesitate to go to the ER if you experience any symptom that is new to you. It is ALWAYS better to err on the side of caution. If you would like to know your risk for heart disease, please visit the Women’s Heart Foundation website and take the quiz.

    Almost 5 years later, I still must take an anti-hypertensive to manage my high blood pressure; however, I was able to lower my total blood cholesterol levels to the excellent range, drop my triglycerides to the excellent range, lower my waist to hip ratio, and keep my blood glucose stable, all with a sound nutrition and exercise while learning how to deal with the stress in my life.

    Do you suffer from heart disease? What measures do you take to prevent or slow progression of this disease? Do you believe women are often misdiagnosed or seen as ‘being too stressed’ when they present to the ER with vague symptoms?


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    Comments

    • MARILEEC1
      52
      I had just read an article on what having rheumatic fever as a child might have done to my heart, right before reading this blog! Gives me chills - when your heart starts skippin' beats there isn't much that is scarier. I am memorizing those symptoms, and staying on top of my blood numbers! - 2/4/2010   2:59:00 AM
    • 51
      you.know.all.my.life.I.have.been.af
      raid.of.anything.related.to.dying.o
      f.heart.disease.in.2003,when.I.got.
      my.first.job.I.went.on.a.diet.of.oa
      tmeal,yogurt,exercising.an.hour.a.d
      ay.lost.80.pounds.in.6.months..anyw
      ays,I.became.obsessed..I.started.re
      ading.all.these.fitness.magazines..
      saw.all,.these.articles.for.heart.d
      isease.and.became.paranoid.that.I.w
      as.gonna.die.I.was.only.20.I.by.nat
      ure.am.a.hypochondriac.
      and.heart.disease/heart.a....is.
      something.that.absolutely.terrifies
      .me.
      its.on.both.sides--my.moms.dad.d
      ied.from.a.stroke.in.his.60's,my.mo
      ms.sister.has.a.pacemaker.or.somthi
      ng..to.do.with.her.heartbeat.rythm.
      or.something,takes.meds.for.it,my.g
      randma's.father.died.of.a.stroke..6
      0's,my.dads.side---we.are.all.overw
      eight.even.my.extended.family,cousi
      ns.etc.no.smoking.noone.smokes.
      my.grandpa..dads.father..has.had
      .all.kinds.of.problems.my.great.gra
      ndma.who.passed.in.2000..she.had.to
      ns.of,heart.operations,heart,proble
      ms..ok.what.got.me.REALLLLLY.scared
      ,paranoid,freaked..when.I.was.about
      .9.I.was.sleeping.over.at.my.aunt.a
      nd.and.uncles'(my.grandma's.daughte
      r)..their.houses.were.right.next.to
      .each.other,so.anyway..middle.of.th
      e.night.my.aunt.gota.call..my.gramm
      a.was.having.a.heart.a....and.I.had
      .to.go.with.them.to.the.hospital..a
      nd.do.you.have.any.idea.how.freaked
      .I.was?
      never.got.over.it.since.then.I'v
      e.been.paranoid.about.developing.he
      art.disease..im.convinced.I.will.di
      e.from.it..my.mom.is.49.has.diabete
      s,high.blood.pressure.takes.her.med
      s.exercises.and.just.said.to.me.yes
      terday.she.passed.the.age.her.dad.w
      as.when.he.had.his.first.stroke..wh
      at.I.wanna.know.is.can.I.STILL.eat.
      right,exercise..enough.to.NOT.get.h
      eart.a...heart.disease..at.least.ti
      ll..im..ya.know.in.my.60's?
      I.dont.smoke,.dont.drink,get,8.h
      ours.of.sleep.a.day,exercise.at.lea
      st,40.minutes.a.day,,,BUT..I.am.70.
      pds.265.pds,and.have.an.addiction..
      more.of.a.habit.to.icecream.and.pop
      ...can.I.at.26.learn.to.eat.better.
      be.healthy.and.make.THAT.a.habit..t
      hat.will.keep.me.healthy..enough.to
      .not.die.from.heart.disease????
      please.MESSAGE.ME.any.suggestion
      s,reponses,please - 2/4/2010   1:23:04 AM
    • 2BSALLYB
      50
      At the age of 52, I had an "emergency" stent implant. Thank goodness I was spared a heart attack.

      Only one week prior to that, I was put on high blood pressure medicine and a statin. My symptoms were certainly not the typical. I had pressure up near my collar bone that would come and go. It didn't last long until the morning of my emergency. I had shortness of breath but I attributed that to my asthma. I was overweight and at that time, my diet consisted of whatever I liked...lots of pizza, hamburgers, chips.
      Things have changed for the better. I've slipped up for a couple of years and now need to lose weight again and increase the exercise. I CAN MAKE IT BETTER!

      NEVER NEVER NEVER GIVE UP! - 6/14/2009   12:30:22 PM
    • 49
      Doctors don't take women seriously when they complain of heart related issues either. I went to the ER because of an arrhythmia so obvious that you could see my heart jumping around and hear it disturbing my breathing patterns without benefit of a stethoscope.

      They told me to get my weight down and to see a psychiatrist for anxiety issues. No blood tests or EKGs were run, nothing.

      When it happened again, I was in the physician's office. Luckily he recognized it and did something about it. It turned out that I have an electrical problem with my heart as well as a sizable heart murmur. They're not related to my obesity, as they're both genetic defects, but the point is I wouldn't have been taken seriously even if I had been having a standard heart attack. - 6/11/2009   10:40:02 AM
    • TERELOU
      48
      I agree with EFaker. June 2007 at age 54, I woke up in the middle of the night with "tightness in my chest", nausea, diarrhea, sweating and a feeling of "doom". I woke up hubby, we got dressed, got to the hospital, where the nurses had me hooked up, monitered,IV'd with the clot busting drug before the doctor got there and they had ordered the helicopter to fly me to the heart doctors for further treatment. In less than an hour I was in a much large hospital and the heart doc were putting me under. When I woke up, they had put 4 stents in my heart and I still have 2 that are less than 80% clogged. The next day while visiting with my children and sister in law, I thought I "spaced off", only to wake up to the nurse putting paddles on me. I got a 2 lead pacemaker that day. 2 days later, they let me come home from ICU to rest for one week.

      I went through cardiac rehab for 3 months. I had my lipids tested last week and the results were great - my total cholesterol was 144! I have NO damage to my heart from the attack as we caught it very early on.

      The bad news - I did this to myself. Morbid obesity, smoking very heavy, no exercise, not going to the doctor when I should, and ignoring his advise when I did. Both my parents have had heart attacks with stents, both of their parents had the same, and my younger brother had his first heart attack at age 30 with a "balloon" and multiple heart attacks resulting in a triple by-pass with a pacemaker and a defribillator installed by age 34.

      My advise - follow your doctor's advise. If you have a family history of heart disease, GO TO THE DOCTOR. If the doctor tells you its nothing to be concerned about, GO TO A DIFFERENT DOCTOR. Doctors are also human and have off days. There are some that are always having off days, just like some of us! But your health is more important and only you can take charge of it by going to a doctor have having tests run. Be aware, the nuclear cardiac stress test is not always 100% sure that there are no obstructions in your arteries. I have seen friends have this test only to have a heart attack within 30 days time. And your doctor will tell you this.

      I can honestly say that the nurses at our local hospital were super to me. I found out later just how much training they do on a weekly basis to get their timing down pat and not miss a click. Folks, this is a 22 patient bed hospital and at that time, we had 2 doctors, one an M.D. and the other an O.D. Pretty fantastic folks! - 5/4/2009   6:49:53 PM
    • 47
      How would I know for sure? All Dr's in my experience (including Emergency Rooms) seem to discount symptoms in Women! And I do have a family & health history that makes me a candidate, despite my fitness. - 5/4/2009   2:53:38 PM
    • 46
      No, I do not suffer from heart disease. However, I am predisposed to this disease. I must admit in the past, I have taken my health for granted, but not any more. I have changed my entire diet, my exercise program, my life. I believe women are often misdiagnosed. But, more harmful is our inability to trust our gut feeling that something is wrong and seek additional medical assistance. Thanks for presenting this article; it provided a new level of consciousness. - 5/4/2009   12:05:40 PM
    • 45
      My best friend had a heart attack at age 42 one year ago, and it scared me so badly that I was motivated to lose the extra weight I've been carrying. I am less than ten pounds from my goal after joining SP in July 2008 and feel good. I will memorize those symptoms just in case I have to deal with this myself.

      My mother has had hypertension for over 30 years, but she's always been really good about managing her diet and exercise. Mama's father had a heart attack when in his early 40s, and that makes me leery of tempting fate or history to repeat itself. My father was recently (within the last 5 years) diagnosed with high blood pressure, and I have noticed I no longer am in the 108/68 range when I have to visit the doctor's office. I'm about 128/80 and take my numbers seriously because I have an eleven-year old son to enjoy and a wonderful future educating young minds.

      It's ironic that this was published on my birthday, but I didn't see it until today. Thanks for the information, Nancy, you may have saved more than one life. - 5/3/2009   4:40:51 PM
    • 44
      Two weeks ago I startred to have shortness of breath, The dr has ben doing Blood work, has me set up for a ultra sound and a holter monitor.
      My BP has been on the high side for a few months now. The past few days my feet and hands have been tingling and then last nigght out of the blue my face was hot and flushed, my heart racing.
      I decided as I was getting my self into a bit of a panic to go to Er as I was driving there I saw my DR. Office and remembered it had late drop in.
      My Dr was not on call but the one who checked me said my BP was 170/90 and my HR was over 100. He just kept saying it was stress and wanted to give me tranquilizers.
      I finially took the perscription and went home. I have more tests to have and hopefuuly this will get sorted out.
      I would have gone to the hospital after that if it got worse but being such a small community he was prob the DR. on call there also.
      Next time though I willgo straight to hospital as maybe it will get me my tests sooner. I am a 48 year old non smoker about 20 lbs over my goal weight and quite active.
      I just find it irritating to read this this morning and see I had all the signs and to be sent on my way with a its prob the empty nest syndrom since I had said I wasnt under unusual stress.
      PS I didnt fill the tranquillizer perscription.
      - 2/28/2009   12:42:50 PM
    • 43
      Both of my parents have HBP and I know that bad eating habits run in my family...I am trying very hard to stay as healthy as I can...I am watching fried foods(working on total elimination), sugary snacks, etc....it's a hard process but so worth it in the end... - 2/5/2009   1:27:08 PM
    • 42
      Ladies heart disease is nothing to be taken lightly. Your family history has alot to do with your chances. If you don't know it you should find it out. I have for you an exmple of why.

      My Maternal grandmother spent her 50's and 60's in and out of hospitals for multiple heart related problems. She was overweight, had diabetes, high blood pressure and was a smoker. She was diagnosed with lung cancer, but died of a massive heart attack at 72. She smoked up to the day she died and did little to control the blood pressure or diabetes.

      My Mom is overweight, has high blood pressure, dibetes and until recently was a smoker. She had her first mild heart attack at 46, and had angioplasty and stents. Had 3 more and had triple bypass at 48. After her bypass she has had 4 more mild ones and more stents. In June she had her 9th heart attack and finally quit smoking. Her daily life as she knew it is gone. The 9th heart attack did permanent damage that will not heal to about 60% of her heart. She was told her chances of surviving another attack are slim. She knew her mothers history and still did little until recently to correct her risk factors such as smoking, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. She had her diabetes under control until her last heart attack and is working to get it back under control.

      Now on to me. At 32 I was diagnosed with an arythmia after a 3am trip to the ER. I have low blood pressure, normal cholesterol, low blood glucose, but am overweight. The doctor told me lose weight. I know my grandmothers history, I know my mothers history, so I am darn well going to do what that doctor told me to do. I am hoping my changes will keep the bad habits from passing on to my daughter since so far it is only the female side of the family that is effected by the heart problems my uncles and brother have no problems. - 10/28/2008   11:11:29 AM
    • 41
      My hypertension was diagnosed at age 29 when I wore a size 7! I went to the doctor because my edema, that I thought was related to my menstrual period, was not going away between periods. Breast cancer and heart attacks are both in my family history, but breast cancer is more on my mother's side and hypertension on my father's (his mother and father and three sisters). One doctor commented it's good neither was on both sides. At 62, I'm working to lose about 60 extra pounds (down 11 so far), and getting into better shape. Very little of the fats I eat are from animal fat, as I gave up red meats several years ago, and have been switching to soy instead of milk because it's better for people and better for the planet. Thanks for stressing the information for WOMEN! - 10/27/2008   5:27:52 PM
    • 40
      A few years ago, I walked regularly after work with a neighbor. She was normal weight, didn't smoke, seemed healthy, but she started having painful twinges in her left jaw. Her dentist treated her for TMJ. When the twinges didn't improve, she saw her dr, and eventually it was discovered she was having a series of heart attacks. She was treated, and as far as I know is still doing well (we've moved away). One reason she didn't question the dentist initially is that I was being treated for TMJ, but my course of treatment brought relief.

      I also come from a family with a tendency for heart disease: my 93-yr-old father has had several bypasses, angioplasties, and stents, but he's still going strong; my mother had rheumatic fever as a child and ended up with an enlarged heart and had a valve replacement, and my oldest brother (an active non-smoker, non-drinker, normal weight) had bypasses a couple of years ago. I had a series of TIAs and underwent a lot of testing, and they found a tiny hole in my heart, so I'm now on a blood-thinner. My bp is good, and my cholesterol is improving, though the ratios have always been good, but my goal now is to get my weight to a healthier level. Gradually, it's getting there. - 10/27/2008   2:10:40 PM
    • 39
      Thank you, thank you, thank you for spreading the word about heart disease in women. It's something everyone should be aware of. - 10/27/2008   11:24:54 AM
    • 38
      Heart disease is the number one killer of women in America. My grandfather died of a massive heart attack at 56 after several previous heart attacks. When my mother was 46 and had every major risk factor for heart disease (including morbid obesity, smoking, extremely high stress levels, and a family history), her doctor diagnosed her pains as indigestion and sent her on her way. Within months, she died of a massive heart attack. I still harbor resentment for the profession as a result of such a gross misdiagnosis. At least now I know my risk factors and am actively trying to decrease the chances that the disease will be passed down to me. Thanks for sharing this article. - 10/27/2008   10:36:01 AM
    • ALNESBITT
      37
      I too suffer with hypertention beginning in my mid 40s. At that time I was not over weight. I was 120 lbs. In my early 50s I began to gain weight and went to 267. The doctor warned me about the weight. I ignored the warnings. I figured I was taking the hypertensive medication and it was under control. I began doing my own research when I feared I would reach 300 lbs and learned about the correlation between belly fat and heart disease. It was a rude awakening. I have lost several inches from my belly but it still protrudes. It is 43 inches. I do crunches and watch what I eat. Hopefully it will shrink to its normal size. - 10/26/2008   10:35:39 PM
    • 36
      Thank-you for putting this article out as all women need to understand this important issue. Most of us have been led to believe that breast cancer is our #1 enemy but heart disease is killing us much more.

      My mother was sent to the hospital for a "panic attack" that turned out to be a heart attack. I am grateful that her co-workers were freaked out enough to call a squad. She had been having symptoms for 2 weeks. Her primary physician had given her a stress test recently so when she went to him for her symptoms he "knew" it wasn't her heart and diagnosed her with emphysema instead. We are incrediably lucky that she is still with us. Get informed! - 10/26/2008   10:31:49 PM
    • SP_COACH_NANCY
      35
      Strawberry,

      This is when intuition is key...last Sunday evening I developed a numbness on the left side of my face. It lasted for well over an hour and since I had just done all the research on this topic I decided to go to the ER just to be on the safe side.

      Lo and behold I was admitted, Had a CAT scan, MRI, and a full cardiac and neurological workout. Thankfully I did not experience a stroke or TIA (at this time) but I was diagnosed with a complicated migraine. The MRI did show more white matter in my brain than most people should have at my age (47). While I am doing well today, I think if something doesn't feel 'right' tis better to go see your health care provider or go to the ER ASAP. - 10/26/2008   7:08:47 PM
    • STRAWBERRY*MOON
      34
      These symptoms are frightening, because they are truly amorphous. I've had all of them, granted not all at once. What can we do? We can't run to the hospital each time. Any insights would help! - 10/26/2008   6:31:06 PM
    • 1LBDOWN
      33
      I have moved from one risk category into a lower risk category since being at SP! I decreased my waist size to be out of the risk zone! My BMI is still too high, but that's coming down, too. - 10/26/2008   5:54:27 PM
    • 32
      Hey Ladies!!! I am an alumna member of Alpha Phi Fraternity. I just wanted to say that our philanthropy is Women's Cardiac Care. Every year we hold a Red Dress Gala to raise money for the foundation. We also hold a King of Hearts Pagent, Which is like a male beauty pagent, that raises money for that also!! I figured I should tell everyone about that!!! - 10/26/2008   2:10:33 PM
    • 31
      There are 2 things I'm very serious about: heart disease and breast cancer. My mom had both and died from a heart attack last year. I had a "mini-stroke" in the spring and am now taking Omega3 capsules and a daily aspirin regimen. I've bumped up my cardio activities and have restricted my sodium intake even more. During September my All My Children Fans and Miss F.A.T. teammates and I monitored our daily cholesterol intake and also observed National Heart Health Day on the last Sunday in September by wearing red. Observing my cholesterol intake also made me aware of favorite foods that I thought would be lower in cholesterol but are extremely high. As women, let's do more to promote heart health. - 10/26/2008   1:55:05 PM
    • 30
      Heart Disease is really and scary. When I was pregnant with my first child, I had some severe complications. I had to undergo genetic testing before I could have another child to see if the complications were linked with something genetic. Anyway, at the age of 27, I learned that I have a genetic mutation that makes me at risk for a heart attack or stroke. Pretty scary, when I have always eaten mostly homegrown fruits and veggies, and had no symptoms other than a problematic pregnancy.

      Lisa - 10/26/2008   12:37:30 PM
    • 29
      Thank you for this article. I went to the doctor on Friday and my blood pressure was very high. He put me on medication and one aspirn per day. The blood work results are not in yet. I have had several symptoms mentioned and just put them all off to getting older and side effects of my current COPD medication. I hope all ladies of Sparkpeople read this article and take action now to become more healthy. - 10/26/2008   11:48:19 AM
    • 28
      With the help of Spark, I've lost some of the 40 pounds I need to lose. I've gone off my HBP meds due to the fact my BP is great now. Walking, strength training, and watching my foods is doing the trick. My LDL cholesterol is still high (142); but my HDL is 65! So I've done some reading and found that if your ratio of HDL to LDL is .4 or hgher - this is good! - 10/26/2008   9:16:28 AM
    • 27
      Great article! Why is it that women always have to listen to their families problems and we never listen to our own bodies screaming! - 10/26/2008   9:09:33 AM
    • 26
      Nancy, thanks for bringing such an important issue to the forefront. - 10/26/2008   6:43:39 AM
    • 25
      You know I'm glad to read this article I was considering changing my doctor. I went to the E.R twice this year for the symptom of feeling of anxious and feeling something wasn't right.They did echocology, MRI,blood test and found nothing wrong. So I will continue to go if Im not sure. I am doing all I can to reduce my chances of developing heart disease. I have all the known illnes that put me on fast track to heart disease. - 10/25/2008   10:34:50 PM
    • 24
      I am so thankful for this article and everyone's responses. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and advice. This is an extremely important issue that women and their families need to be aware of. I'm 37 and in pretty good health but am keenly aware of how much room for improvement I have. Now I want to get a physical!! - 10/25/2008   10:28:14 PM
    • 23
      For a couple of years, I worked as admin staff in a clinic that treated patients with TBIs for speech therapy. While strokes aren't heart attacks/heart disease, it still managed to open my eyes to the fact that it is the leading killer of women. This is especially important to me because my paternal grandfather died because of his heart disease and my father is extremely overweight... and I clearly take after that side of the family. I've lost 30 pounds, kept most of it off, and exercise regularly. I try to be mindful of being healthy, because, hey, my paternal grandmother died of breast cancer, which also raises my risk. I'm just working on doing the best I can by me for me! - 10/25/2008   9:56:57 PM
    • 22
      I do not suffer from heart disease but I have an Autonomic Dysfunction that affects my heart due to the fact that my brain doesn't tell my heart the right thing to do. I was misdiagnosed for 2+ years. I think the problem with women not admitting to a lot of their symptoms is because doctors do not take us seriously when we finally admit that we do not feel well. We had doctors tell us that I needed to attend counseling, therapy, etc.. We kept pushing because after being athletic my whole life, I knew my body, I knew something was really wrong. People survive 2-20 years with what I have, the doctor's that didn't want to admit that they just didn't know what was wrong cost me 2+ years of that 2-20. Lucky for me I found a doctor that knew what was wrong but unfortunately a lot of women give up when doctors don't listen. Ladies, Do Not Give Up ! You know your bodies and you know when something doesn't feel right. Fight for your health! - 10/25/2008   7:43:13 PM
    • WICCANPRINCESS
      21
      I was born missing a heart valve.... I have had 6 surgeries to correct the problem as best the doctors could, including 2 bypass operations... my most recent surgery was this January to stop an erratic heartbeat... I'm 30 years old and I see people twice my age abuse their hearts, by what they eat, not exercising, etc... and want to tell them how lucky they are.... take care of yourselves... - 10/25/2008   7:07:12 PM
    • 20
      It will be six years next month that I had my heart attack.
      I felt unwell after lunch (a lean cuisine entry and some fresh fruit) and went to lay down. I couldn't get comfortable and discovered that I was more comfortable sitting up. Fortunately all of the ads on TV hit a part of my memory and I knew what was going on. I got some aspirin and my supervisor arranged for a co-worker to take me to the hospital (two blocks away). I got out of the hospital a week later, just in time for Thanksgiving. Was I scared? You bet! Am I glad I paid attention to magazine and TV ads? Of course.
      Today I am still struggling with weight loss. My cholesterol is under control with medication. I walk 55 minutes most days and strength train when I feel like it (it's boring to me). I've reduced my stress and I'm eating a healthy diet. Both heart disease and cancer are in my family and I assumed that it would be cancer that kills me. Now I know that heart disease is the one I need to worry about.
      - 10/25/2008   6:34:26 PM
    • IMAGIN8
      19
      My mother had a "silent" heart attack. This was discovered when she had tests which diagnosed liver cancer (which, miraculously, she has survived). She was not aware she had a hard attack and the doctors could only tell her it had happened in the past year. Luckily the damage was not life-threatening and my mom is a fighter. But it just goes to show that women can have a heart attack and not even know it! - 10/25/2008   6:22:36 PM
    • SP_COACH_NANCY
      18
      I would also like to thank everyone for putting a 'face' on this disease. It is one thing to read the statistics, it's another to read the stories of those who have walked through this storm-so to speak and can tell us their experience.

      And to those of you who bravely have walked through the storm, I wish you all GREAT health and many healthier years ahead! THANKS AGAIN!
      - 10/25/2008   5:00:34 PM
    • 17
      Thanks for the article and THANK YOU to the people who took the time to tell their stories. Made it very meaningful for those of us who have heart disease in the family. - 10/25/2008   4:49:14 PM
    • 16
      Women are DEFINITELY misdiagnosed and brushed aside, as if it is our fault that we're different from men?! Yes, women are more prone to anxiety. Yes, its scary that anxiety symptoms can mimic heart symptoms that should be addressed immediately. But we know that know, and the medical profession should DEFINITELY know that by now, and not take such a casual attitude over complaints. Also, women may be more prone to not voicing small concerns, because we get tired of being seen as hypochondriacs and complainers :-/ - 10/25/2008   4:08:42 PM
    • DRAGONWEIGHT
      15
      This is a great blog on heart disease in women.
      A large part of the reason I joined Spark was to continue on my quest for the healthiest lifestyle I can live.
      A year ago I had a major heart attack. I was one of these women who's first indication of heart disease was a heart attack. I had my annual physical 2 weeks before the heart attack. All my lab work was good. My cholesterol was excellent - I've always had very high HDL levels and low LDL. My blood pressure was also good. I don't smoke. However, there is a history of heart disease in my family.
      My presenting symptom was high back pain. The pain started as I was leaving work and I attributed it to my heavy briefcase which I carry on my left shoulder. The pain came and went all evening. Finally, when the pain became really intense and started to radiate to my chest, I clued into the fact that it might be a heart attack. I'm an RN and I did not recognize the symptoms. The paramedics who worked on me told my daughter that when they first heard the symptoms, they thought gallbladder attack. I was fortunate that I live in a city with wonderful cardiac care and got excellent treatment. (Women are often treated less aggressively than men).
      A year later, I am probably about as good as I am going to get. I can't walk as fast or as long as I used to but I keep striving to improve. I walk, do yoga, strength train and meditate. I eat a low-fat, high fibre diet. I am living the best life I can because it may be shorter than I anticipated.
      Women do need to recognize the fact that heart disease is very prevalent in women. Along with regular checkups and following doctor advice, following the Spark lifestyle choices will help all Spark women maintan/achieve heart health. - 10/25/2008   2:57:41 PM
    • 14
      The realization that my journey to better health needed to start, and soon, was when I had a hysterectomy. I jokingly remarked getting rid of my uterus and ovaries also eliminated my ever getting those kinds of cancer. My OB/GYN turned around and looked me right in the eye and informed me that heart disease was the leading cause of death in women. I was shocked ... and got the point!
      Thanks for such an informative and relevant blog! - 10/25/2008   2:34:56 PM
    • 13
      Great info thanks for sharing. - 10/25/2008   1:50:11 PM
    • 12
      What an article, an eye opener at that. I was shocked about the difference in symptoms between men and women. I too am at risk for heart disease as my mother had a triple bypass in 2000 and her only complaint was shortness of breath and the doctors were treating her for asthma. Just this past September 5, my husband had a quintuple bypass and he too was days or weeks away from a major heart attack that would have killed him. Their words were he was a dead man walking. I have hypertension which is under control for over 10 years and just recently I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes I have had all the test and as of today I'm fine but I keep going for my check up every 3 months since I have asthma. I really need to lose weight and I'm working on that. Thank you for such an informative article. I am going to tell my friends about this article and e-mail it to them.
      Lillian Bonachea - 10/25/2008   1:23:04 PM
    • 11
      Back in 1981 my mother was complaining to my aunt, who was a doctor's assistant at the time, about having awful heartburn. My aunt made Mom go to the ER and have her heart checked. That saved her life then. Mom ended up having a triple bypass. Thirteen years later she died from heart failure because she didn't take care of herself. I have 2 sisters and one brother and all three of them are on meds for heart conditions. I am the only one in my family who isn't on any meds at all. I'm working real hard at keeping it that way. I also have a cousin who complained to her doctor about her heartburn. She was admitted to the hospital immediately and had bypass surgery the next day. If she hadn't said anything to her doctor at her yearly checkup she would not have survived a heart attack. My cousin is very tiny and definitely not overweight. - 10/25/2008   12:48:16 PM
    • 10
      I too sufffer from HBP. I am now on two different drugs to keep it under control. I have found that if I get the scale to a certain number and make sure that I get at least 30 to 45 minutes of cardio vascular exercise daily (I sit at a desk all day at work) that my blood pressure gets down to a reasonable number. Since my last visit to my MD my pressure has gone down 10 pts for each number. My grandmother died of heart disease thirty three years ago and her doctor completly ignored her symptoms. She had been in to see him with complaints less than six hours before entering the hospital with congestive heart failure. She died just three week later, never leaving the hospital. - 10/25/2008   12:18:19 PM
    • 9
      I've also read that, for women, a very low HDL is a much stronger indicator of potential heart failure than a very high LDL, yet it is the LDL that most reports focus upon (and that is apparently the stronger indicator for men). Anyone else seen reports about that? - 10/25/2008   11:56:32 AM
    • 8
      Very interesting, I too have high blood pressure and needed a recent wake-up call to start a weight loss life change. I joined sparkpeople about 2 months ago, have seen some changes, clothes fit better etc, the best part was my Cholesterol level dropped 15 points. I had been to the doctor, started sparkpeople, applied for insurance and that's when they checked my levels again so I know that losing weight directly impacted my lab results! - 10/25/2008   10:44:18 AM
    • 7
      Interesting information. I fortunately am changing my life style a-la Spark People and am felling better becasue of it. Much less stress, lowered blood pressure, and less weight! It is a slow process but the benefits are worth the wait! - 10/25/2008   9:26:12 AM
    • 6
      I was surprised to learn that the symptoms of heart disease in women are so vague. The symptoms described above could occur for so many different reasons, so for someone like me, who doesn't have hypertension, high cholesterol, or other well-known risk factors, know if they needed emergency care? - 10/25/2008   9:22:48 AM
    • 5
      If you suffer from HBP and are obese, I strongly recommend losing some weight. About 3 years ago, I finally listened to my doctor's plea for me to start losing some weight. I was on HBP medicine and obese. After losing about 25 pounds, I was able to come off my medicine and as I continue to lose weight and exercise, my BP is in the normal range. If you are obese and want to come off the medicine, I strongly recommend losing weight and execising on a regular basis, it may help you manage your HBP without medicine. Now not everyone is fortunate enough to come off medicine but if there is the chance that you could be medicine free, isn't it worth giving it a try.
      - 10/25/2008   9:04:47 AM
    • 4
      We have a blood pressure and Cholestral in our family so I am at high risk especially since I'm also obese. - 10/25/2008   8:52:03 AM
    • 3
      Heart Disease runs in my family. This article also reminds me that a risk factor for heart disease is family history of heart disease. Both my parents, grandparents aunts and uncles have high blood pressure. My dad died of a heart attach related to congestive heart failure. My mom has high blood pressure. I've had borderline high blood pressure. Exercise and diet are keeping my pressure under control, as well as my stress. I've said 'no' to many things and 'goodbye' to some unhealthy habits in order to continue to maintain a lower stress level. It's not always easy, but it is essential in order to live a longer, healthier life! I'm working on my weight and continue to incorporate more exercise in my lifestyle. My family is supportive and 'on board' with the program! Hallelujah! The battle is half won! I want to see grandchildren in my life, as well as smaller clothes, more endurance and strength. - 10/25/2008   8:00:13 AM

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