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OWS-MargueriteI am a 42-year-old African-American female. I’d had a heart attack in my late twenties, but it was not diagnosed until the age of 38. At that time, I had cardiac catheterization and an MRI that showed I had a moderate heart attack and damage to the front of my left ventricle. My cardiologist was puzzled because no arteries were clogged and there was essentially no physiological reason for the heart attack. But I also have lupus, which is known to cause silent heart attacks and may have caused mine.

My heart appeared perfectly normal but with a big bruise on it. The catheterization also showed multiple blood clots and an aneurysm. My cardiologist said that my heart looked like someone in her 90s who had a heart attack in her 50s. In addition to my usual hypertension medication, I was given Coumadin, a baby aspirin, atenolol (a beta blocker) and a diuretic, all of which are other medications to treat high blood pressure.

I actually began experiencing pain radiating from my chest down through my arms, back, and shoulders at age 19. I would also be short of breath. I know now that it was angina, but back then who would have thought or listened to a 19-year-old who was having radiating chest pains? This went on, usually at rest, for a couple of months. At the age of 20, I experienced dizziness, nausea, sweating, and visual impairment, which I later learned resulted from high blood pressure. I was not diagnosed with high blood pressure until age 26.

I consider myself a walking miracle and am very grateful to God for sparing my life. I live a relatively healthy life with good and bad days, but my good days outweigh the bad ones. I have a very supportive network of family and friends, and I’m also under the care of an excellent cardiologist who helps to keep me in check.

I’m getting older and realize my risk for having a second heart attack increases if I don’t take drastic actions. I have many controllable and uncontrollable risk factors. Sometimes I fall off the wagon with the controllable ones, but I realize that I have to remain aggressive in order to beat heart disease.

My experience has given me great insight regarding women and heart disease, but there is still so much to learn. My goal is to advocate for women like me, especially women of color who are at a higher risk of dying. I want to get the word out to women about heart disease so that we can all live longer, healthier lives.

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