Just hearing the word “heart” conjures up different meanings for different people- some think of romantic love, others think of having a generous heart, and some are reminded that a healthy heart prevents disease.
A heart attack is the furthest thing from most of our minds. They usually happen to Type A personalities, the go-getters, the workaholics or the middle aged, overweight person who doesn't eat healthy foods, doesn't exercise and maybe even smokes. It remains however, the dreaded event for all of us and sadly, some people don’t survive.
I did. I had a heart attack three months ago.
As a nurse and a health professional, the thought of having a heart attack wasn’t anywhere in my realm of consciousness. I never entertained that idea for myself in my lifetime! I eat organic food, I stay away from processed foods, I exercise 3 times a week, I am very aware of minimizing pesticides and chemicals in my home environment and personal care products — in other words, I am diligent about creating and maintaining my health.
Stress and Heart Disease
There was, however, a lot of heart disease in my father’s family. My dad had his first bypass at age 52. I knew that but it never concerned me because my lifestyle favored health and wellness- but I never paid attention to the effects of chronic stress. We hear about stress and we read articles about it, but for me it sort of turned in to blah, blah, blah, yeah sure, stress is bad.
Women are such multi-taskers. We often times put our family and friends’ needs before our own. It’s easier to take care of other people, let’s face it! Then, when there is no time left for any self care, we remind ourselves that at least we’ve been there for others. All the while the stress mounts.
My lifestyle now includes yoga and meditation as a means of getting grounded and being kind to myself, and I am learning from others how to release stressful and worrisome thoughts. Life has a lot of ups and downs for ALL of us. I hope that sharing my story might make you think about any ongoing stress in your own life so that you too can learn how to release some of it.
Women's Symptoms are Different
My symptoms were vague and had I been on my own I might not have called 911. That would have been a big mistake. I had an uneasy sense of upper chest and upper back pain; I was aware of tightness in the back of my jaw and I had mid back spasms. That was it. No elephant sitting on my chest, no stabbing heart pain, no left arm pain. Women's symptoms often present as back issues that are in fact related to the heart.
In the end, my cardiologist told me that while putting in the stent where the occlusion was, he saw branches of new arteries that my body had formed to compensate for the blockage. It was because of my healthy lifestyle that my body had formed those arteries and upon subsequent testing it was determined that I had ZERO heart damage!
This was a free wake up call for me to help me remember that body, mind and spirit are all connected, and what affects one area will, undoubtedly, affect the rest.
Anita Capizzi R.N., CHC, delivers dynamic health education and engaging workshops to corporations and groups, and has an active health coaching business.