A 63-year-old woman suffered a heart attack. His advice could save your life.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one person dies every 34 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease, which means each of us needs to be aware of our heart health so we don’t become one of them.

I strongly believe that we all need to be aware of our overall health. Being overweight, uncontrollable diabetes, and other medical conditions can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and other illnesses.

Shortly after Thanksgiving 2021, a few months before my 63rd birthday, I was waiting at a red light in suburban Philadelphia when I felt a tingling sensation in my left arm. It was so surprising that I called a close friend and asked, “Isn’t that a symptom of a heart attack?”

We talked about it for a few minutes, but then my attention shifted to my shopping. A few weeks later, shortly before December vacation, I was having lunch with my sister and had severe heartburn.

Around the same time I received my COVID-19 reminder, and over the next few weeks I started experiencing what I thought were flu-like symptoms: nausea, cold sweats, fatigue, and malaise general.

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I ignored the warning signs

According to the CDC, heart attack symptoms in both men and women include chest pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, back, arm, or shoulder, and nausea, dizziness or unusual tiredness. I’m not the only one ignoring these warning signs.

I was extremely busy. A close family member had endured a hospital stay after spinal surgery, and I was focused on his recovery; about my many babysitting roles, including my role as a single mother to a teenage son; and about my endless deadlines and all the responsibilities piling up on my plate.

So I ignored all the warning signs until I got nauseous and started having massive chest pains during a night at the theater with a friend in early January. She took me to the nearest emergency room.

The CDC reports that one in five deaths each year is caused by a heart attack: a staggering 697,000 people. And I came dangerously close to being one of them. I felt completely blindsided by it all.

Both sides of my family have a history of heart disease: my father died of a second heart attack at age 57 (the first was in his 40s) and my mother had major heart surgery later in life.

However, I did not know how important it was to make an appointment with a cardiologist, and my internist never offered me preliminary examinations. I also didn’t know that heart disease is the leading cause of death among women.

When I arrived at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia, I was terrified. As it was during COVID restrictions, my friend was not allowed to stay with me, and everything in the ER triage unit went quickly.

My EKG revealed that one of my arteries was 99% blocked and I had additional blockages. I went from a battery of tests to an operation in about 20 minutes.

As I shivered on the operating table in the freezing heart catheterization lab and in a drug haze, all I could think about was praying for the doctors and God to keep me alive for me and for Adam, my 17 year old son. autism, who relies on me for the majority of her daily needs.

I remember saying out loud, “I’m not done. I have to take care of Adam. We still have so many adventures to share. In all, I had three stents placed in the arteries of my heart, and I was told that I needed to make major changes to many aspects of my life if I was to prevent future heart attacks and other problems. major medical.

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Life after my heart attack

Although I received top notch care from doctors and nurses, coming home was scary. Health professionals say that everyone handles this fear and the resulting depression differently. Still, it’s critical that being worried doesn’t make me unmotivated to make daily heart-healthy choices in all aspects of my life.

I was extremely sad to have to miss my son’s 16th birthday because I was in the hospital. However, the nurses kept reassuring me, “Just tell Adam you’ll be there for his 17th birthday to celebrate…and other birthdays too.”

I am aware that I am often the caregiver and that after leaving the hospital feeling weak, vulnerable and overwhelmed, I would need to rely on friends and neighbors to regain my strength.

A little over a year later — my 64th birthday — as I continue on my path to recovery, I see my heart attack as a wake-up call and I continue to make significant changes in my life. Every day I work diligently to have a healthy mindset, diet, stress level, exercise routine and everything in between. I do this to keep growing.

During my six-month checkup, my cardiologist, Dr. Kevin Steinberg, told me that my test results revealed that my heart muscle function had returned to 100%, another gift I don’t take to heart. the slight. But, of course, the fact that I acted quickly during the heart attack and was minutes from a top heart hospital was all in my favor.

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Since my heart attack, I have made many important positive changes. I took a guided meditation course with breathing exercises. I took and completed cardiac rehab classes, checked my blood sugar daily without fail, wrote down everything I ate, and practiced portion control. As a result, I lost and kept 27 pounds, but I’m not done with it all.

Dr. Steinberg taught me that heart disease involves two issues – one you can control, like exercising regularly, not smoking, and eating healthy foods every day, and the part you can’t control. , that is, genetics.

He urges his cardiology and obesity patients to take small steps with the long-term goal of healthy living and to make sure they are not ignoring a medical issue because now is a good time to stay. at the top of their health.

I’m still a keeper. I like taking care of my son, my sisters, my friends and my neighbours. But I also learned to put on my so-called oxygen mask first and then attach my child’s. I know that every day and every moment is a precious gift, and it’s not a gift I want to take for granted.

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7 heart-healthy tips from a cardiologist

These tips come from Dr. Kevin Steinberg, clinical assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Health System, Interventional Cardiology at the Hospital of Pennsylvania:

  1. Make Heart-Healthy Changes and maintain them daily. It starts with positive first steps.

  2. Listen to your body: Only you know when something is wrong. Don’t ignore even the mildest symptoms. If you have any concerns, talk to your healthcare provider. If you think something is wrong, don’t wait; timing matters.

  3. Make exercise a regular part of your life: Do moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise with a goal of five days a week and weight-bearing exercise twice a week. Regular exercise keeps you more in tune with your body, which can help you recognize even the most subtle symptoms.

  4. Adopt healthy eating habits: The Mediterranean diet is ideal for a heart-healthy diet. (If you treat yourself over the holidays or your birthday, get back to your healthy diet the next day; you haven’t ruined the whole diet by indulging yourself on one or two memorable occasions).

  5. Maintain a healthy weight: Get weight loss help if you need it. Overweight and obesity are major concerns in the United States

  6. Manage stress and get enough sleep: Most of us need 7-8 hours each night.

  7. Be aware of risk factors for heart disease: High blood pressure, bad cholesterol, smoking, overweight or obesity, and type 2 diabetes. Make regular visits to your healthcare provider.

Debra Wallace is a multi-award-winning professional journalist, author, editor, social media/web content provider, and autism advocate with over 20 years of experience. She is a regular contributor to Parade.com, Orlando Family Fun, South Jersey, Monsters & Critics, Delaware Today and several other print and digital publications. Her expertise includes celebrity profiles, entertainment, local heroes, health/wellness, special needs parenting and autism advocacy. Wallace is a devoted single mother to her 17-year-old son, Adam.

This article is reproduced with permission from NextAvenue.org©2023 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved.

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