"That morning I just went into sudden cardiac arrest and I wasn't breathing," says heart attack survivor Susan Martin.
Now a new study shows detecting heart problems in women is harder than it is in men.
"The whole heart situation didn't come up, you may be depressed," says Martin. "You're this, you're that, but never the true underlying cause."
That was certainly the case for Martin. She was just 36 years old when subtle symptoms gave way to a life threatening condition.
"Shortness of breath, nausea which I didn't know until after the fact is a symptom of heart issues," says Martin. "I was definitely having that and I didn't know why. It was just something else I ignored. I got up. The alarm went off. It was about 6 in the morning and went to the bathroom, and fell out. A pretty heavy thud on the tile floor. My husband heard it. At first he was like 'Are you ok?' and eventually ran to call 911 and it was sudden cardiac arrest."
Dr. Phillip Wines says women are harder to diagnose for a number of reasons.
"We don't have ideal screening tools for women," says Dr. Wines. "Women can be difficult with some of our imaging studies because breast tissue and some of the other anatomical differences make reading the images more difficult."
Dr. Wines also says signs are more subtle in women. Shortness of breath, nausea, inappropriate sweatiness, lightheadedness or back or shoulder pain could all be signs of an underlying heart condition and should be taken seriously.
"Acknowledge that they are allowed to be a patient," says Dr. Wines. "Be aware of their symptoms, and not in denial as to how they are feeling."
A lesson Susan Martin will never forget.
"Listen to your body," says Martin. "If you have a persistent pain that is a whisper. You don't want to be yelled at and send yoruself to the hospital. Take care of yourself and ask for help. Those are things we normally don't want to do. We don't want to inconvenience people, but you may need to. It may be your life at stake."
St. Thomas Heart is helping raise awareness of heart disease in women by sponsoring the GO RED FOR WOMEN campaign. They also have 2 free seminars coming up. If you are interested in learning more, we have a couple of links on FOX LINKS.
Tuesday, July 19 2011, 08:10 PM CDT
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