Living with Heart Disease


By: , – Leslie Goldman, Woman's Day
  :  11 comments   :  17,149 Views

Heart disease affects millions of women, including the five who follow. What sets them apart from the rest? These survivors have made it their mission to raise awareness of heart disease in women and are active with the following organizations.

Go Red For Women
The American Heart Association's GRFW movement offers heart health information and resources, as well as advice for women by age group.
The Heart Truth 
Educate women in your own community about heart disease with the help of this campaign from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. 

The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease provides free support services to women living with heart disease and information on heart-healthy living. 

Click through to meet the women as they open about the lessons they’ve learned from coping with heart disease.

In 2001, halfway through a water aerobics class with my sister, I started coughing and couldn't stop. I thought I was having an asthma attack, so I drove myself to the ER. The doctors thought a virus was attacking my heart and causing fluid to build up in my lungs and sent me home with medication. At my follow-up visit two weeks later, I wasn't any better, so the doctor sent me to the hospital for a cardiac catheterization (a procedure in which doctors take a close look at your heart and arteries). When I woke up, I immediately knew something was wrong. The room was filled with people—including my husband, who was in tears.

The doctor told me my left main artery was severely blocked, and I needed bypass surgery right then and there. I was stunned: I'd been diagnosed with very high cholesterol (in the 300s) right after college, but since I was young and at a healthy weight, my doctor just kept an eye on me. It wasn't until after the surgery that I realized if I had educated myself about high cholesterol and heart disease, I would have insisted on more tests and handled the situation more aggressively. As doctors wheeled me into the operating room, I kissed my husband goodbye and sobbed—I thought it might be the last time I saw him.

I am grateful the surgery saved my life, but I had to find a new normal. Extreme fatigue prevents me from working, but I try to walk 2½ miles and take an hour daily for "me" time: reading and listening to music. I lost the 35 pounds that I'd gained, and have regular checkups.

I also found out that I have a gene defect that causes my sky-high cholesterol—and when my sons were 6 and 9 years old (they're now 18 and 20), they tested positive for the defect. They are taking statins and we've all followed a lowfat, low-salt diet ever since. In a way, my heart failure saved their lives, too.

People ask, "Aren't you angry that your original doctor didn't do more?" But back then, doctors weren't so clued in to women and heart disease. Physicians are more educated now, but it's still up to you to know your risk factors and how to protect your heart—at every age.

Click here to read more on living with heart disease from Woman's Day.

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    thanks - 11/22/2017   7:33:49 AM
  • THUPP06
    I'm 29 years old, and had a heart attack October 7, 2013. Scariest thing in my life. I'm trying hard to quit smoking, staying on a daily exercise routine, and watch my diet. Along with the medications I take I still have the anxiety and fear that it's going to happen again. - 1/7/2014   3:04:09 PM
  • 9
    @BERRY4 - On the other hand, I have been taking statins 33 years with no side affects. However, it wasn't until my diabetes reached the point where I became insulin dependent that there was a major change in control of my cholesterol.

    A month after I started the insulin, I had blood drawn and an appointment with my cardiologist. He asked me what I had done to get my cholesterol down from an average of 280 to 190. Nothing?

    He repeated the test 2 weeks later and my triglycerides had dropped from almost 400 to 210 and my overall cholesterol was at 180. Six weeks later, total cholesterol was 164 and triglycerides were under 200 for the first time since I had started being treated, AND my LDL's had dropped to 80 from its previous high of 180. HDL's were still at 44.

    Both my Cardiologist and my Endocrinologist were stymied and continued to quiz me about what had changed, anything that had changed, in my lifestyle. Finally I told my Endocrinologist that it had happened within a month of switching to insulin. He and my Cardiologist continued to do research and they found that for 1-2% of people who had high triglycerides and high cholesterol showed a SIGNIFICANT change in serum cholesterol if they had to start an Insulin regimen.

    For the past 5 years, my triglycerides and total cholesterol have continued to slowly get lower. My last blood test showed my triglycerides at 100, my LDL at 40 and my HDL at 44. My overall choleserol was 99!

    Late last year, in October, I had a serious bout with Angina and my Cardiologist checked out my stent and bypasses (the latest was a set of 5) and they looked exactly how they should immediately after a bypass, He stated, at the time, that the stent still looked brand new (I received the stent in April of 2001)!

    My 1st bypass (x4) was in Houston in 1980. My 2nd was in Kansas City in 1991.

    Side note: After I got out of Intensive care, the thoracic surgeon visited me and asked if he had worked on me before. He didn't remember me, but when he cracked my chest the work looked exactly like his. It turned out that the surgeon who did my first bypass was the was the same person who taught him his technique. Which means that the inside of my chest probably looks a lot like Dr. DeBakey's work, one of the first Open Heart surgeons in America. He was head of the Cardiology Department at the University of Houston's Memorial Hospital. - 3/19/2013   11:30:51 PM
    My cholesterol has been better ever since I took statins and watching my diet. It is hard sometimes because most of my favorite foods are high in cholesterol . I've been browsing for recipes that will keep my cholesterol down.. - 3/19/2013   9:55:48 PM
  • 7
    If I were told to take statins for ANY reason, I would look elsewhere for answers!

    With that said, I do have a friend in her 40's who was able to live because something "didn't seem right" when she went to bed. She had the foresight to tell her husband to call 911 "because we need to go to the hospital NOW". -- She most likely would have died in the night if medical attention had not been sought out.

    Don't doubt what you know about your body..."when something feels WRONG"! - 3/18/2013   7:47:34 PM
  • 6
    I had a heart attack 10 years ago. My only symptom was that I was tired after lunch (not uncommon for a high stressed programmer/analyst) and that I couldn't find a comfortable position when I laid down. I went to the ER and returned home a week later with two stents.
    My new normal is daily exercise, watching my weight (I've lost 15% of my body weight, but I still have weight to loose), watching my sodium intake, and taking meds (I'm down to 3 meds from the 6 that I had when I left the hospital).
    Most people are surprised to find out that I had a heart attack. I don't know if I've reversed my heart disease, but I do know that I can do anything I put my mind to.
    - 3/18/2013   5:49:16 PM
  • 5
    I was training for a half marathon in the fall of 2011 when I was diagnosed with a congential heart defect that was causing my heart to fail. I've had one surgery to fix it and have another one planned for this summer. For years, every time I saw a doctor, they would mention my heart murmur and I would brush it off as something I had always had. - 3/18/2013   4:50:38 PM
  • 4
    I suffered a heart attack on 21 December 2012 -- totally out of the blue!!! Had no clue!!! In 2009, I seriously started looking at my lifestyle and had changed up lots of things in our eating habits and was walking 5Ks on a regular basis but .... I, too, am looking for the New Normal! - 3/18/2013   4:46:00 PM
  • 3
    I just had a heart attack almost 6 weeks ago. I am still looking for the New Normal in it's entirety. It's not easy, but it is necessary. I guess I'm trying to make salt-free food my friend, soto speak. - 3/18/2013   4:39:46 PM
  • KAB7801
    Got to keep your cholesterol down. I went to my doctor and told him my blood pressure readings were always different from one arm to the other. He said we don't worry about that! Luckily he referred me to a cardiologist which turned out I had some blockage in my subclavian. Due to high cholesterol. - 3/18/2013   10:41:56 AM
    Very scary - I understand - DH had a quadruple bypass that failed and is now waiting for a heart for a transplant. So low sodium diet and less fat, less stress are a must for everyone. - 3/18/2013   9:20:24 AM

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