What is the most common cause of death in women? Most women answer “breast cancer,” but the No. 1 killer of women is heart disease.
Alicia Walker is living proof. In 2005, at 44, she experienced the first of two heart attacks. While exercising, walking the same route she had walked for years, she experienced shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, and chest pressure, as if an elephant was on her chest. This had never happened before, and because she had no family history of heart disease, exercised regularly and was thin, she waited, afraid of going to Emergency. She thought the sensations would go away. They didn’t.
Alicia started driving to Emergency, but pulled into a fire station when the pain became worse. That heart attack resulted in open-heart surgery.
Seven years later, in October 2012, she experienced almost identical symptoms. This time she did not wait. She called an ambulance and was waiting for them in her driveway with purse in hand. A cardiac catheterization revealed four blockages, only one of which was able to be stented.
Alicia now participates faithfully in cardiac rehab by exercising and attending classes. Her one vital bit of advice: “Don’t wait.”
If you suspect you are experiencing symptoms of a heart attack, go to the nearest emergency department for evaluation.
According to the American Heart Association, signs of a possible heart attack include:
- Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
- Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
- Cold sweat, nausea, or lightheadedness.
As with men, the most common heart attack symptom for women is chest pain or discomfort, but women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, and back or jaw pain.
Websites with valuable information include:
M! FM 2013