By Nancy Woodward
As a 48-year-old woman, mother and tech executive, everyday has been a gift and everyday has been a struggle since my heart attack and stent placement in June of 2014. While I feel very blessed to have beaten the odds and to still be able to be in the lives of my family and those I care about, being a heart attack survivor requires diligent daily effort to take care of my health, my heart and make sure I have an appropriate balance of priorities in my life.
In the spring of 2014 I started to have pain in the right side of my neck and head. The headaches and neck pain went on for a few months. Sometimes I'd have shortness of breath, feel lightheaded and experienced increased fatigue. I don't remember having any significant chest pain during this time. Then one day everything dramatically increased in severity and I had my son take me to the hospital. The doctors did tests on my head and neck, but found nothing wrong. The doctor asked my permission to do additional tests on my heart. Some doctors may have sent me home at that point, but my doctor was determined to find out what was going on.
After a series of additional tests, it was determined that I had a 99% block in my left anterior descending artery or LAD, often referred to as a widow-maker. I had survived a heart attack that could have easily resulted in death. Shortly thereafter, the doctors placed a stent in my artery and told me the rest of my arteries look incredibly good, and that if I took care of myself, I should enjoy a long life. Being only in my forties, relatively healthy, and having never smoked or drank alcohol in my life, the doctors were baffled how my heart attack could have happened.
Shortly after the heart attack, I spent a tremendous amount of time researching information to better understand my condition and what I could do to prevent any further damage to my heart. First, I found a wonderful cardiologist, and together we have worked on keeping me healthy with a combination of medication, diet and exercise. I went back to school and got certified as a Plant-Based Professional and learned how to cook food that is nutritional and heart smart. With a history of heart disease in our family through me and my former husband, I spent time with my children helping them understand how important it is for them to keep their hearts strong too through appropriate diet and exercise. I also got involved with the American Heart Association as a Go Red Ambassador to help other women understand the shocking statistics of heart disease in our country, and that there are things they can do to protect themselves.
Nearly 50,000 women died of a heart attack in 2014.
It does require effort each and every day, yet the blessing of being alive and being here for my family is worth the focus I have now. The wake-up call I had because of my heart attack has caused me to re-evaluate my priorities in my life, and create a more essential-based balance. Now I recognize and fully embrace the belief that taking care of my health is an essential way that I can give back to others in this life, especially those that I love.
Learn about Heart Health Tips you can incorporate into your daily routine.