Heart Attacks: Yes, It Can Happen to You

Heart Attacks: Yes, It Can Happen to You

A woman who was a picture of good health suffered a heart attack at 41!
Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the U.S.

Hollywood actor James Gandolfini's deadly heart attack at 51 is just one high-profile reminder that it can happen to any of us at any time.

Chest pain, arm pain, and shortness of breath are the symptoms most people recognize, but there are five lesser-known symptoms you need to know to save your life.

Forty-two year old Kim Strong is an outdoor sports fanatic.

"You name it, we do it," Kim Strong, heart attack survivor, told Ivanhoe.

She fearlessly skis double diamonds and surfs the monster waves in Costa Rica.

"I don't go down, ever!" Kim said.

That changed on July 11, 2012.

"I was watching television with my husband and I said, 'I have a weird feeling.

I feel like I flossed my teeth too hard,'" Kim explained.

"The next morning I had a back ache, chest pain, and the jaw pain was killing me.

I told my husband that I thought I was having a heart attack. He told me, 'you are not having a heart attack,' and then he taps me on the bootie and says, 'get ready, get dressed, and go to work.'"

She then collapses in her bedroom closet. He drives her to the hospital and in minutes her suspicion is confirmed, heart attack. 

"I have a blood-clotting syndrome," Kim said.

"Heart disease hits very young people, very productive people, and that's one of the reasons why it's very scary," Dr. Swathy Kolli, Cardiologist at Dr. P. Phillips Hospital, Orlando. 

Dr. Swathy Kolli says it's worse if you don't know all the signs. In women, that includes nausea, vomiting, shoulder, neck, and jaw pain.

"These are the symptoms that people usually don't pay attention to," Dr. Kolli said.

Kim did for one reason, a card. A handout at the annual American Red Cross "Go Red Luncheon" she attended two months earlier.

"No other way to say it, if I hadn't gone, I would have pushed through it because I am a pretty tough girl," Kim explained.

Kim's extreme sporting days are over, but she says the tradeoff is worth it.

"I have to be here for my kids.  I have to see what happens," Kim said.

The major risk factors for heart disease are hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking, and family history. Kim's blood clotting disorder is genetic. She's planning on having her children tested, since they have a 50/50 chance of having it, too. 

Dr. Swathy Kolli says the lesser-known factors are obesity and certain inflammatory diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis.

BACKGROUND:  More than a million Americans have heart attacks a year.  The heart muscle needs a constant supply of oxygen-rich blood to nourish it.  The coronary arteries provide the heart with blood supply.  Coronary artery disease causes the arteries to narrow and blood will not flow properly.  Fatty matter, proteins, calcium, and inflammatory cells build up within the arteries to form plaques of different sizes.  The plaque deposits are hard on the outside and soft on the inside.  When plaque is hard, the outer shell cracks and platelets come to the area, and blood clots form around the plaque.  If a blood clot totally blocks the artery, the heart muscle becomes “starved” for oxygen.  Over time, death of heart muscle cells occurs, causing permanent damage.  This is a heart attack.  (Source: www.webmd.com)

WOMEN AND HEART ATTACKS:  “Although men and women can experience chest pressure that feels like an elephant sitting across the chest, women can experience a heart attack without chest pressure,” Nieca Goldberg, MD, Medical Director for the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women's Health at NYU’s Langone Medical Center and an American Heart Association volunteer, was quoted as saying.  So, the American Heart Association lists five heart attack signs that women should be aware of:

1.Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of the chest.  It lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back.
2.Shortness of breath with or without chest pain.
3.Discomfort or pain in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
4.Other signs like breaking out in a cold sweat, lightheadedness, or nausea.
5.Like men, women’s most common symptom is chest pain or discomfort.  Women are more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, like shortness of breath nausea, vomiting, back or jaw pain.  (Source: www.heart.org)

 For More Information, Contact:

Dr. Swathy Kolli
Dr. P. Phillips Hospital, Orlando

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