Can a Woman In Her 40's Have a Heart Attack?
Note from Jenna: This post is brought to you by a special customer of ours, Laura Haywood-Cory. Laura wears a medical alert bracelet due to heart disease and wanted to share her story with all of you. Please give a warm welcome to Laura!
"Heart disease is something that I used to never really think much about, but in March of 2009, at 40 years old, heart disease found me."
I don't smoke, I don't have high blood pressure, my cholesterol isn't out of control, I exercise regularly, and I'd recently lost 23 pounds. I'd had an annual physical in December '08, and in early spring of '09, I'd started training for a triathlon with my doctor's blessing. So I don't know who was more surprised, me or the doctors, when I woke up on the morning of March 30th with textbook heart attack symptoms.
I had chest pain that was radiating down my left arm and up the side of my neck and into my jaw; I was overheated, and I felt like I was about to throw up. The pain was like nothing I'd ever felt before, and while a tiny, rational part of my brain was ticking off the symptoms and shaking my husband awake, the rest of me was crying and incoherent and very scared.
"I was the wrong age (40), wrong gender (female), no family history, no risk factors, and all the tests were negative..."
My husband took me to the emergency room, and they immediately did an EKG and a chest X-ray, drew blood, and gave me an aspirin and a nitroglycerin patch. The pain was subsiding even on the way to the hospital, and after we'd been there an hour, it was completely gone, and I felt silly for being there.
Everyone told us we'd done the right thing to come in, though, but in the next breath they'd tell us that they didn’t think I'd had a heart attack: I was the wrong age (40), wrong gender (female), no family history, no risk factors, and all the tests were negative—my EKG looked normal, they couldn't see any heart damage on the X-ray, and the initial blood work was fine. They talked about indigestion, or esophageal spasms. But they decided to admit me overnight for observation just to be safe, since I'd described such classic heart attack symptoms when I came in.
"I would have put your odds at having had a heart attack at much lower than 1 in 100, but the cardiac enzymes don't lie. You have indeed had a heart attack."
Later that evening, when the admitting doctor came to tell us the news, I knew before he said anything. He had a kind of pole-axed look about him. He said, "I would have put your odds at having had a heart attack at much lower than 1 in 100, but the cardiac enzymes don't lie. You have indeed had a heart attack." Cue crying in my husband's arms for several minutes and a round of "Why me? I’m too young to die!"
During the catheterization the next day, they first found just a small tear in my right coronary artery, then it expanded into a full-blown spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD). The doctors say that the SCAD is what caused my heart attack. They treated me with six stents, and after a week in the hospital, I was sent home.
"I didn't want to be one of those people wearing a clunky, ugly stainless steel bracelet that screams, "THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH ME..."
My cousin, a retired EMT, was the one who talked me into getting a medical ID; I didn't want to be one of those people wearing a clunky, ugly stainless steel bracelet that screams, "THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH ME," but he pointed out that given my age and relative good health, that if I were unresponsive, a paramedic's first thought would NOT be "heart disease." So I hopped online and looked for attractive medical IDs, and Lauren's Hope came up. First, I did a build-your-own, with purple and lavender beads. Then I got a purple waterproof alert one for swimming and other exercising. When tags became available with a purple option for the medical symbol, I got one, with a distressed purple leather medical alert bracelet. Are you seeing a trend here? :) Every time I wear them, I get compliments. At first, most people don't even realize that they're medical IDs, that's how attractive they are. And honestly, the fact that they ARE attractive makes it easier for me to feel good about wearing them day in, day out. It gives me and my husband both peace of mind to know that my information is available, should I be unable to communicate.
My mom has recently had to go on coumadin, and I've converted her into a happy Lauren's Hope customer, too. She has the gold bracelet and matching gold ID tag and loves it. I'm also a brochure ambassador and take them with me to the monthly women's heart disease support groups that I lead. Thank you for your lovely IDs that make wearing one a pleasure, not a chore.
Sincerely, Laura Haywood-Cory
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