It’s a phone call I will never forget. My blood ran cold, my stomach dropped and my knees buckled. I had just finished up producing the morning TV news show in San Diego and went to check my phone. I had several missed calls from my dad, no message which was odd because it was still pretty early in the morning. When I called back, he answered on the first ring. Hysterical, he choked out the words “mom had a heart attack.”
The rest of the day is a blur. Somehow, with the help of my co -workers and my boyfriend (now hubs) I was on the next flight to Arizona. I am happy to say with the grace of God and the most amazing doctors and nurses, my mom survived (she flat lined several times and was rushed into surgery with zero minutes to spare.)
One of the scariest things I learned when we later re-caped that terrible day, she NEVER KNEW she was having a heart attack. She did not have the typical symptoms you read about or see on TV, chest pain and numb left arm. That morning she didn’t feel well, she thought maybe she caught a little bug. Later she felt nauseous and actually sent my dad to get some crackers and ginger ale. She threw up, which made her think she had the flu. She felt pressure in her chest, but never painful, so it never crossed her mind she was having a heart attack. Doctors say, the signs of a heart attack for a woman can be very different compared to a man. I never knew. Warning signs in woman can be trouble breathing, dizziness, back, jaw, lower chest or upper abdomen pain, and like mom, nauseous.
According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the number one killer of women, one woman every minute dies from heart disease. So, are you at risk? My sister and I are, as well as our boys. We know there is a family history of heart disease so our doctor will start doing screenings when we turn 40. There is nothing we can change about genetics. But doctors say there are some risk factors you CAN change. Starting NOW, all of us need to be aware of our “numbers”- blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and body mass index. Of course smoking, lack of exercise and diet also play a big part in heart health. Race is also a factor.
So on today National Wear Red Day, I will leave you with this frightening fact: 90 % of us women have one or more of the heart disease risk factors. If you want to find out your risk factors check out this quiz I found on goredforwomen.org and pass it on. And if you’re not dressed already, throw on something red, chances are someone you know is affected by this disease.