Heart Attack Warning Signs for Women

Articles I have been reading tell me that the warning signs for women can be different than for men.  For instance, it is more likely for a woman to have some of the peripheral symptoms such as jaw pain, back pain, shortness of breath, a feeling like you have the flu , nausea, and heartburn.  From my experience, I had chest pains that ranged from mild to very sharp that just lasted a few minutes.  This happened for about a month before my event.  So if this is happening to you, don't ignore it!

The jaw pain would often linger for longer than the chest pains, which were sometimes only a pressure or tightness.  I understand that this is also something that happens more often in women than in men.  During the actual event, my jaw pain extended down into my back and radiated down my side.  At that point, it was quite severe. 

Also, for weeks before the event, I had intermittent shortness of breath that would come on suddenly and leave just as suddenly.  I would get dizzy during these attacks just for a moment.  It was disconcerting.  

One of the biggest signs that people dismiss (as we are taught not to listen to our intuition) is a feeling of impending doom.  Our bodies do try to tell us that something is wrong and it is best to listen.  I had nightmares - one in which a beautiful ancient building was being blown up by terrorists and I was powerless to stop it.  Another nightmare had me sitting way above the world on a rock formation looking down at an amazing view.  Here I was enthralled until I tried to get down.  Then, I found I was stuck on the rock. I was in the midst of working my way down when I woke up - which was an indication that I was being given a path to healing. 

Also before the "event", when I would eat a big meal, I would get heartburn much more readily than even before.  Often, chest pains would be accompanied by nausea and/or heartburn.  The morning of the event, I had nausea so badly I felt like I had the flu.  

Here are some great links to review for information about how women's symptoms vary, and what to watch for.  Sadly, every year many women die as they just don't think it can be happening to them or they dismiss the symptoms.  Although I had dramatic heart pain, some women don't.  It is critical to listen to your body AND your intuition in order to make sure you don't become one of these sad statistics.

American Heart Association - Women's Symptoms

WebMD - Women's Symptom's









Me? A Heart Attack? At 55?

Three years ago in one of my "health craze" phases, I decided to start this blog.  I set it up on the same platform as my wine blog, and then proceeded to ignore it.  I never wrote one single post.   On March 22nd of this year, an event happened that changed my life forever - and has inspired me to dust off this blog platform and actually add some meaningful content.  If my experience can save someone's life, then I have a responsibility to share.  First, before I share some of the research I have been doing during my time off work, let me share my experience. 

For weeks before March 22nd, I had a feeling of impending doom - like something inevitable but horrific was going to happen to me or someone I knew.  I woke up in dread, and had some very vivid nightmares that for some funny reason I failed to write down.  I started having panic attacks, and chest pains - some were really bad but only lasted a few minutes, and some were pretty mild, just like a pressure on my chest. I made an appointment with my doctor - but my EKG and blood pressure were perfect - 117/73.  They asked me if I exercised, and I definitely had been trying to do so, howbeit half-heartedly.   Still, given my symptoms, they scheduled a stress test for the 13th of April.  Little did I know that I wouldn't make it that far without experiencing my life changing event.  

The evening of the 21st, panic attacks were coming in strong.  We were in the process of losing a large client at work which was what I attributed it to, and I woke up early the next morning to take a critical conference call ( I was up anyways as nausea kept me from sleeping - another tell tale sign of an impending heart attack).   Around noon, I felt like I had the flu so went to take a nap.   I woke up feeling like a gorilla was mauling my chest with huge claws - I hit the intercom and yelled for my husband who was out working in the yard.   I was half dressed ( I work from home when not traveling and only dress up when I go on the Telepresence system), and hadn't yet had a shower.  I thought - wow - I look awful, maybe I could take a shower?  A little voice in my head told me that if I took the time to take a shower, I wouldn't live to see the next day.  I grabbed some cornstarch and threw it in a napkin and tossed it in my hair so it wouldn't be greasy, and my husband dressed me.   He put me in the truck - told me not to pay attention to his driving - and then got me to Marshall Hospital in record time. 

There - they took an EKG and then immediately rushed me into a room where four IVs were started and nitro was put under my tongue.  I was given morphine, and a portable ultrasound device was placed over my chest where they told me they found the clot on the right side of my heart.  Next, I was given an injection of blood thinner into my stomach.   A wonderful cardiologist, Dr Stanley Henjum was by my side and he assured me that I wasn't going to die, but that I was going to have to make some lifestyle changes.  My cholesterol was high,  I hovered about the diabetic/prediabetic line , and I had been a smoker during the highest stress times of my life.  I often sat 14-16 hours in a chair in front of a computer without doing much movement, and during those marathon work sessions, I was known to pound coffee, nuts, chips, and string cheeses so I didn't have to prepare food.   Such was my crazy high tech life - where I valued work performance above all else.   Intermittently - like the time I originally set up this blog - I would jump on the health bandwagon only to jump back off when it took too much time and my health stabilized.    Not this time!

After they got me stable at Marshall Hospital, I was then transported by ambulance to Sutter Hospital in Sacramento where I was immediately rushed to what they called the "Cath Lab".  I was given a general anesthetic, but remained conscious as I heard my cardiologist there do angioplasty and then try three times without success (and some frustration) to put a stent in my heart.  The artery affected was just too small and too "cork-screwy" to allow stent placement.   I was moved up to the cardiac ICU floor where I was to spend the next five days - the first three, unable to get up and walk around due to the need to heal the site where they inserted the angioplasty rod (or whatever it was called) in my groin.   They had some kind of soothing music and hypnotic voice on the TV monitor which I was too drugged up to change - so I still have dreams about it - but I must say that it did help.  

After five days, I was released to go home - and home never felt so good!   I made a commitment to NEVER AGAIN have this experience, and began my research anew into what we human beings can do to live healthy lives without this kind of event.   Watch this space to hear more about my journey as it unfolds......