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I did everything right. As a former professional dancer, I work out regularly, I practice yoga, I don’t drink or smoke, and I eat a healthy diet. You can imagine how shocked I was when I woke up 1 night with crushing chest pain.

I knew I was in trouble and wasted no time in calling an ambulance. The electrocardiogram ( ECG) at the hospital confirmed my fears—I was having a heart attack. I never thought I was at risk; my cholesterol and blood pressure were always low. However, I’ve since learned that being a postmenopausal women aged 65 is enough to make me vulnerable to heart disease.

Looking back, I realize that there were some earlier signs. A few months before my heart attack, I felt a nagging back pain. I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with degenerating disks and arthritis of the spine. This seemed to explain my symptoms and I was sent home with muscle relaxants. I continued to feel very tired and every now and again I’d have pains in my chest and back, shortness of breath, and sweating. When I went to the emergency room, it was assumed that the chest pain was related to my back problems until the ECG showed that I was having a heart attack.

I lost my mother about 6 months before the heart attack after spending 15 years as her primary caregiver. The last 3 years were particularly stressful, as I watched my beloved mother’s health and spirit decline. I believe that this stress took a toll on my heart. Gradually, I’ve returned to the active lifestyle that I love and I’m very optimistic about my future.

It’s remarkable how far medicine has advanced—I had 3 drug-coated stents placed and I’m taking several medications. Even so, when it comes to understanding women and heart disease, there is so much more that needs to be accomplished. As a female heart attack survivor, I plan to do everything I can to help women learn more about their # 1 killer.

Filed in One Woman's Story > One Woman's Story

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