She Had A Heart Attack And Didn’t Know It!
Today I come before you with not just a story but with a message. You see the “she” in this story is my mom! So yes, this really happened and no one knew.
A Normal Thursday
That Thursday was like any other one. Mom went to work and then came home around 5 pm. My parents then went out for their normal weekly date night. While at dinner my mom mentioned that she was having some pain in her lower back as well as her chest. Nothing sharp or take your breath away, but just discomfort. My dad suggested calling her doctor which mom said she would if not better in the morning. The night went on and the pain went away. So in the am, no call to the doctor was made and it was work again as usual.
The weekend went on with no pain and was relaxing. In fact, the weather was pleasant to sit outside and just enjoy the beginning of summer. As my family was still staying with my parents at this point, we enjoyed cooking outside and watched movies at night. The only odd moment was my mom’s ankles were starting to swell some but would be normal again in the mornings.
The Next Week
The work week started just like any other. Husband and parents at work and the kids with me working on the schooling. Everyone was doing fine health wise. The temperature dropped some with rain coming in so both my mom and I myself had little aches that come from that. Yes, even I already have pain due to injuries to both my ankle and knee when I was younger.
But mom was having more swelling than usual for her. In fact, on Wednesday she woke barely able to bend her fingers. Thinking it was a possible side effect due to a new medication she was on, she called her doctor and made an appointment to stop in.
The Phone Call
My dad doesn’t call me often. He just isn’t a phone talker. So when I get a phone call from him I tend to be apprehensive. But since we were staying with them he would call to ask about things that I could do in the house, like put the AC on. So on Wednesday when he called I really wasn’t ready for what he said. He said he was on his way home to go to the ER with my mom. Her blood pressure was very high and they think she had a heart attack! Obviously, my mom was upset and he wanted me to be ready for her to pull in (yes, she drove herself home) and to basically keep the kids calm. aka – JR – aka Mr. Autism hyper child.
They left for the ER which lead to mom being admitted. They needed to get her blood pressure down and her heart was showing signs of having had a heart attack.
After a few days of being in the hospital, the heart attack was confirmed and dated back to that Thursday night. Which basically means she went a week after having one without knowing! The great news is her heart is fine. No blockage and no damage. They believe it was caused by stress and gave her some recommended changes to be made.
Why do I share all this? Because after my mom was admitted a week after having this heart attack I wanted to look up signs of having one. I was upset with myself for not seeing something and wondered how even she couldn’t have known. But the information I found shocked me. A heart attack for a woman is nothing like a man’s. And every single symptom could be easily overlooked.
As moms and wives, our lives can be crazy busy and stressful. You take care of a family, run a household, maybe work outside the home or care for aging parents. You are probably also tired a lot of the time. Most likely this is normal. But what if it’s not?
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, ” said Nieca Goldberg, M.D., medical director for the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at NYU’s Langone Medical Center and an American Heart Association volunteer. “Instead they may experience shortness of breath, pressure or pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, upper back pressure or extreme fatigue.
The Symptoms of A Heart Attack
Even though heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States, women often chalk up the symptoms to less life-threatening conditions like acid reflux, the flu or normal aging.
- Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach. Women, in particular, can have pain in either arm — not just the left one like many men. Pain in the lower or upper back often starts in the chest and spreads to these areas. The pain is sometimes sudden, not due to physical exertion, and can wake you up at night. You may feel the pain specific to the left, lower side of the jaw.
- Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort. Unusual fatigue. If it is new or dramatic such as being suddenly worn out after your typical exercise routine, or if you aren’t exerting yourself, but have fatigue or a “heavy” chest. A simple activity like making the bed, walking to the bathroom or shopping makes you excessively tired.
- Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness. Hot flashes are a common complaint for many women during menopause but these symptoms can signal a heart problem when they happen in certain situations: Sudden sweating or shortness of breath without exertion, Breathlessness that continues to worsen over time after exertion, Shortness of breath that worsens when lying down and improves when propping up, “Stress” sweat (cold, clammy feeling) when there is no real cause for stress, Sweating or shortness of breath accompanied by other symptoms such as chest pain or fatigue.
- As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.
Don’t Ignore Them
As many of these can be normal for some and not a pain level to make you want to call 911 or even your doctor, we have to take note and look at ourselves as a whole. Many women often say they noticed some of these three warning signs weeks or a month before a heart attack. Just like my mom! The back pain together with the pain in her chest, while not intense enough to make her take any medicine or even prevent her from enjoying her date night; was the combo to point to a heart attack.
Please take note of these signs and take action if you are someone you know is exhibiting any of these symptoms. It is truly better to be safe than sorry for the outcome will not always be a happy one.