Arlene’s first warning signs of heart disease appeared last fall during her nightly walks around her neighborhood. It wasn’t like the movies; there wasn’t an intense pressure, or sharp stabbing pain. Instead, it started with an odd discomfort in her arms, followed by a perceived bout of indigestion. A couple nights later, she remembers a discomfort in her lower back. Finally, it was an achy armpit that prompted her to call her family physician. Not the typical warning signs that a serious problem is lurking.
Arlene had always lead a healthy lifestyle. “I am in my forties, a non-smoker with no family history of heart disease.” Heart trouble was the last diagnosis she anticipated from her physician. But her EKG, stress test and x-rays all confirmed the verdict to be true; Arlene had heart disease.
The night after her diagnosis was a sleepless one. She began to feel a pressure in her chest and couldn’t get comfortable. “I remember lying awake on the couch all night, pumping the nitroglycerin that they gave me to treat the angina. I knew I was only supposed to use it a couple of times before seeking treatment, but I resisted calling. I waited for my husband to get up the next morning and asked him to drive me to St. Mary’s.”
Upon arrival, Arlene was admitted to the hospital and kept overnight. The next morning, she awoke to a nurse at her bedside who began prepping her for cardiac catheterization. The procedure confirmed that, not only did Arlene have heart disease, she needed to have a stent inserted to address a 95percent blockage in one of her coronary arteries.
“I have been told countless times that I am atypical.” Arlene recalls as she recounts her cardiac journey, “In this case, I am thankful for being atypical because I identified my symptoms, received immediate diagnosis and subsequent treatment – without suffering an attack.”
Today, Arlene is enrolled in the Cardiac Rehabilitation program at St. Mary’s and is well on the road to recovery. She is also actively engaged in spreading the message about the importance of heart health. “I am sharing my experience in hopes of educating others. Unfortunately, women are far less likely than men to seek medical help when experiencing cardiac symptoms.” She explains, “If there is one thing that I must emphasize, it’s to trust your instincts. Know the warning signs, and if you are experiencing them, don’t hesitate to seek treatment.”
The top 12 cardiac symptoms include: anxiety, chest discomfort, cough, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, pain in arm/neck/jaw/abdomen, irregular pulse, shortness of breath, sweating, swelling and weakness. Join Arlene on Red Day, Friday June 7, 2017 and help raise awareness about the importance of women’s heart health. Wear Red in support of St. Mary’s and the women you love.