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Matters of the Heart

It’s a tiny little red dress covered in beads. I keep it at the office near my computer screen to remind me to take care of my ticker. The ruby red dress is my Go Red for Women campaign pin, given to me by a friend at the American Heart Association. It was the day when years of reading heart disease stats finally sunk in. Here she was, someone I knew and trusted, saying, “Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in this country.” And as if I needed reinforcement, in my line of sight, on the table behind her was a framed picture of my girls. The whole thing was in a word, weird!

A year later, I still can’t shake that feeling when I remember the visit. And that is actually a good thing.

Propelled by fear, personal loss, or epiphany, women need to start taking these heart attack stats much more seriously. According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease kills women more than the next four causes of death combined, including all forms of cancer. Experts say the majority of loved ones lost, including wives, moms, sisters, and friends, could’ve been spared with changes in diet, exercise and smoking cessation.

So what is happening? Why the heart attack discrimination leveled against women? Too many times, women ignore the symptoms. Employees at the morgue, funeral home and E.R. hear she thought it was gas, a hot flash or stress all too often from next of kin.

If you’re reading this and thinking, “I would totally know whether I was having a heart attack. I’m no dummy!” You’ve missed the point.

It’s not IQ that gets in the way of common sense, it’s the daily grind of juggling family, friends and work. We’re too busy taking care of everyone else’s needs and neglecting our own. If you still don’t believe this can happen to you, take 2 minutes and 45 seconds to watch Just A Little Heart Attack. This short film on the American Heart Association’s Go Red website, www.goredforwomen.org,  may finally change your mind. It did mine, as I watched the mom, clearly having a heart attack, continue to make lunch for her kids, breakfast for her husband and take one more call from the office.

Lissette Campos is the director of community affairs for WFTS-TV ABC Action News.

What Is a Heart Attack?

A heart attack occurs when the blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked, usually by a blood clot. If this clot cuts off the blood flow completely, the part of the heart muscle supplied by that artery begins to die.

Source: American Heart Association

Symptoms In Women

  • Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It can last a few minutes or go away and come back.
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
  • As with men, women’s most common symptom is chest pain or discomfort, but women are more likely to experience this in combination with other less ominous symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, back and/or jaw pain.

Source: American Heart Association’s www.goredforwomen.org

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