Healthy Living: For women, identifying symptoms is key in treating heart disease
Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women, but for women especially, the signs and symptoms are often hidden or ignored. YNN's Kafi Drexel filed the following report.
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Just over a year ago, Merna Raymond says she started feeling some discomfort in her chest but initially passed it off as work stress.
“I noticed a few mornings when my body is under that condition. I would feel a burning under my left breast, just a burning sensation,” said Raymond.
It was a feeling so fleeting that she almost didn't tell her doctor about it. Luckily, she did.
A battery of tests followed by an exploratory angioplasty revealed large blockages and she wound up having open heart surgery, which saved her life.
“The surgeons told me a lot of people are walking around in the street with this thing without knowing it because it doesn't affect them, but one day it just ‘vaboom,’ and they are gone if they don't get medical attention,” says Raymond.
According to the American Heart Association, 80 percent of cardiac emergencies in women could be prevented by knowing the signs and symptoms and making the right lifestyle choices.
“It's not always the same as men, who tend to get chest pain a little more than the chest pressure or tightness women say they experience,” says Dr. Merle Myerson, director of cardiovascular disease at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt. “Sometimes women say they have shortness of breath or an indigestion feeling, so very important to know any of these symptoms could represent pain from not enough blood getting through the coronary arteries to the heart muscle.”
Doctors say not only is it really important to be aware of the symptoms, but it is also important to be aware of your risk factors, as well.
“The most important are your cholesterol, having high blood pressure. Are you a diabetic? Do you have a family history of early heart disease, meaning somebody who is young, a woman under 50 and a man under 40 having a heart attack?” said Dr. Myerson.
Raymond had many of those risk factors, but she still came close to not recognizing the signs.
“Whatever you feel in this area you always, because the symptoms they told me about, I had none of those symptoms. None!” says Raymond.
It’s a reminder to other women, she hopes, to speak up whenever they’re in doubt.