Heart Attack

Be Careful, It’s Your Heart: Warning Signs of a Heart Attack

Personal note

This week’s article is a repeat of an article I do every year in February, National Heart Month.

Over the past few years, I have done countless presentations of my talk, now called “The Angina Monologue,”   during which I have not only delivered life-saving information, but I have listened, too, and gotten important information from my audiences.

If you’ve read it before, read again, and remember always to pay attention to the organ that the ancients believed was the seat of consciousness, and which we know as the center of our lives.

Be Careful, It’s Your Heart: Warning Signs of a Heart Attack

February is National Heart Month, and I have been more than ordinarily busy giving my talk, “The Angina Monologue,” in which I describe women’s heart attacks and give preventive advice.  Seeing all the “red” clothing and decorations, hearing of all the “Wear Red” events is exciting – except that cardiac disease occurs all year long, not just in February.

In fact, cardiac disease is the #1 killer of both men and women in the United States; but while the rates for men are declining, the rates for women, particularly in the age 35-54 age group, are rising.

We are surrounded by information about cardiac disease in newspapers, magazines, on the radio and on television, yet most people remain surprisingly ignorant about some of the simple facts of cardiac disease.  So I am once again providing a fuller description of the symptoms, as experienced by real people I have known, including myself.

The “Hollywood Heart Attack,” where the character, clutching his chest,heart slumps to the floor immediately, does sometimes happen.  But many heart attacks do not mimic this model.  In particular, women’s symptoms of heart attack may be very different from men’s in both quality and severity.

(Note:  since first writing this article, I have heard from  some audience members that their husbands also displayed these subtle symptoms, and never progressed to the more typical male symptoms.  Luckily, they paid attention and got help. But, I do think that women are more likely to have these subtle symptoms. No one should overlook them, however.)

It can be too easy to brush these more subtle symptoms aside; as one woman in my cardiac support group said, “Compared to childbirth, this is nothing!”  But of course, they are something.  And the sooner you pay attention and get help, the better the outcome.

Because I paid attention to a small signal, and took action immediately, I have almost no heart damage and was able to return to a full life immediately.

So I’m going to provide some descriptions here that might give women a clearer picture of what to look for.

Chest discomfort:

Men typically experience crushing chest pain and pain radiating down one arm.  Some women do also, but many women do not. I only experienced one second of pressure in the middle of my chest, accompanied by a complete lack of breath – once again for one second only.  Luckily, I paid attention.

Another woman I know reports that she felt as if her chest were on fire.

Any pressure, squeezing or burning in the center of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes or comes and goes is a warning sign.

Upper body discomfort in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach:

One woman I knew had pain in her jaw; another was awakened in the middle of the night by very painful elbows, which she fortunately recognized as being related to her heart.  Others tell of pain in the neck, the shoulder or across the shoulder blades.

At a talk I gave recently, a woman told me of a pain in her jaw.  She had been checked for both a dental problem and a tempero-mandibular joint problem, but no evidence of either had been found.  Should she see a cardiologist, she asked?  I almost shouted, “Yes!”

Any pain in the upper body that can’t be explained should be suspect and you should take action.  See a cardiologist; if the pain is marked or persistent, dial 9-1-1 and go to the ER.

Shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort:

Once again, when there is no rational explanation, such as allergy problems or just having run up a flight of stairs, you should be suspicious of shortness of breath.

Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, nausea and vomiting, cold sweats:

I began to experience nausea and lightheadedness a few days after my experience with pressure (I had already seen a doctor, who found nothing wrong with me). It could have been a virus, but I had no temperature. Taking your temperature is a good idea before you decide it is a virus and dismiss the idea of a heart attack.

After I got to the hospital, I began to experience severe gastric distress, a little like the commercials for acid reflux disease, with figurative nuts and bolts revolving around in my stomach!  A doctor asked me, in fact, if I did have acid reflex disease, and when I said no, it was another factor on which they decided to do angioplasty (go in and see if there was blockage).

I know of a young woman athlete who began to faint after she finished races.  She, in fact, had an undiagnosed congenital defect of a heart valve for which she needed surgery.

So, once again, if there isn’t a good explanation for the symptom, seek help.

Feelings of anxiety, fatigue or weakness — unexplained or on exertion:

I have met at least one woman heart patient who tells of being overwhelmed by inexplicable anxiety as her major symptom. Once again, there was no precipitating event in her life, so it was a very suspicious episode.

The extreme fatigue that a heart attack sufferer experiences is like having a hole in your “fuel tank” from which all the energy has drained out.  One woman I know told me that she was so tired she lay down on her bed, and, feeling cold, wanted to pull the covers up but she couldn’t because it was too much effort.  That was when she realized she needed to get to a hospital.

Take Action

There is an e-mail that keeps circulating on the internet, with advice about heart attacks.  Some of it is good advice: carry an aspirin and take it immediately if you believe you are having a heart attack.  In fact, crunch down on it and wash it down with a full glass of water.

But this e-mail always ends with dangerous advice: “Call and friend or relative and wait by the door,” presumably to have that person take you to the hospital.

This is the message health care providers want you to hear: Do not drive yourself or ask a friend or family member to drive you.

If you have any of the above symptoms, dial 9-1-1.  If you are having a heart attack, emergency responders can start treatment in the ambulance. This can be crucial.

Women, who are often reluctant to have a fuss made about themselves, will dial 9-1-1 in a minute if a loved one is threatened, but will not do so for themselves.

Those few minutes in which you wait for help can make all the difference in the world between life and death, or between a quality life and an impaired life.  One of the possible consequences of heart attack is loss of oxygen to the brain, causing irreversible damage.  You could survive, but only as someone very dependent on others.

The last message I like to leave women with is this:  strive to live the heart-healthy life, and you will feel better than you have in years.  Would you like to wake up every morning eager to start the day, with the kind of zest you had as a child? You can do it!  The women in my support group, cardiac survivors all, glow with health.

The path to  is the path to joy.  And who doesn’t want joy?

Movement is good for you

Personal note

The past two weeks have been a whirlwind of meeting new people at networking events:  The Women’s Business Exchange, Magnetic Women  Business Networking, The Twin Cities Human Resources Association, Women in Networking, and Women of Words.

In each case, I met energetic, enthusiastic, talented women who are driven to pursue their dreams.  As a woman I cheer them on; as a stress expert and an advocate for women and cardiac disease, I continue to pursue my goal to provide them with the best information on the planet as to how to follow their dreams and attain the quality of life they desire.

On May 19, I am proud to be a presenter at the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation’s FREE heart health screening.  If you are in or near Minneapolis, please join us for this value-laden event, featuring

  • Heart health presentations at 9, 10 and 11 AM
    – Stress management  (THAT”S ME!)
    – Heart-healthy eating
    – Exercise for every body
  • Nordic walking demonstrations
  • Healthy living resources and displays
  • Prizes and more!

Saturday, May 19, 2012
8 AM – 1 PM
Richfield Community Center – Nicollet and Augsburg Rooms
7000 Nicollet Ave. S

Please join us!

Movement is good for you

It’s now official:  MOVEMENT IS GOOD FOR YOU.

Oh, wait, you knew that already.  And you’re doing it, right?

Well, not right now, but as soon as you have time.

Of course that time never seems to come.

But what if regular sessions of movement actually helped create time in your life by helping you learn faster, and by making you feel more refreshed and vital so that you tackle tasks with zest and get them done quickly? Would that be a more powerful motivator for you?  Or at least make you curious enough to try some of the suggestions coming from newer research on movement, such as:

Exercise makes you smarter.

With the increased blood and oxygen flow that comes with exercise, you can improve your learning ability.  In fact, the Centers for Disease Control has issued a paper advising more physical activity for students, and where that advice has been followed, students  have made dramatic improvements in academic achievement and test scores.  There is even evidence of increased creation of new brain cells.

How much exercise?  A little jogging in place is great, but even just standing up can improve your brain activity by about 8%.  And my elementary school teachers (now deceased) would be horrified to learn that even chewing gum counts as exercise in this context.

That little exercise break you allow yourself can end in a solution to a problem that you have been puzzling over for some time.

Another motivator:  Reduce your pain and stiffness.

One of the things that keeps us from exercising when we haven’t done so for a long time is that we know in advance that we will feel stiff and it will hurt.  But you don’t have to do dramatic things to overcome that stiffness.

For example, you may raise your eyebrows at the idea that raising them will improve movement and your sense of well-being, but that was the idea at a recent IDEA Personal Trainer Institute in Alexandria, Virginia.

Turns out there is a long band of fascia, the connective tissue that surrounds the muscles, which starts at the bottom of your feet, extends up your legs, behind your back and neck, and ends at the forehead.   Like a rubber band, it stretches when you bend over and touch your toes.  That is, it should stretch, but injury and overuse can form knots in this tissue so that it doesn’t glide along the muscle, as it should.

Raising your eyebrows or getting a neck or foot massage can help this long band become more flexible. Or you can start at the other end:  Take a tennis ball and roll it back and forth under your foot a few seconds.  When you stand up and try to touch your toes, you will find it is much easier.  Why?  Feet are restricted by shoes much of the day, and those little knots that affect that long band of fascia inevitably build up. Your little surreptitious  – and cheap – foot therapy can help fix that.

Ankle rotations under your desk, slow side-to-side neck stretches, big overhead arm stretches, all contribute to a sense of release that will help keep you functioning during a busy day.

If you do just a little bit of exercise consistently, you will find that you miss it very much when you can’t do it.  You may even find that, now that you have the habit, you want more, and then more.

Hey, it worked that way with chocolate, didn’t it?  Just try it.

Hassles and the havoc they can create

Personal note

A full week for me, attending the “High Heels, Higher Heights” conference of Women’s Health Leadership TRUST with roughly 800 excited and capable women in the health care industry, then meeting the dedicated small business group at the Woman’s Club of Minneapolis.

In between, I coped with the documents for refinancing my house, starting with finding the packet (with a two-day deadline) under a door mat to a door I never use in my house, to reading arcane documents and then finally recklessly signing them because I hadn’t a dim prayer of understanding being able to see all the fine print, never mind understanding the language in which they were written (Ancient Troglodyte?).

So I took a deep breath and reminded myself that hassles can be more deadly than a major shock.  I thought I’d share this information with you.

Hassles and the havoc they can create

In the movies, we have often seen a character receive a shock, clutch his heart, and fall to the ground in a heart attack.

No one thinks life’s daily hassles are dramatic, but in fact they can be just as deadly as a major shock.

Real crises, such as having your house burn down, activate the stress response. So do hassles, those little everyday life events that temporarily frustrate.  They also narrow our thinking so that we believe we are in a crisis when, in fact, we are not.

They are much more frequent than real crises, and their effects seem to snowball.

Being stuck at a railroad crossing while a long train goes by, waiting on hold on a telephone only to be cut off, spotting a parking place only to find someone closer has pulled into it, rushing to your desk to do something important only to discover that the computer screen is frozen…the list of hassles is endless.

Dr. Richard Lazarus of the University of California at Berkeley argued in 1984 that such hassles typically cause more human suffering than major life events. They can even create real major life events.  For example, whether the stress is “real” or not is irrelevant; our bodies go through the same stress response: heightened blood pressure, increased heart rate, muscular tension, and more.  A little more damage accumulates, and our lives get a little shorter.

What can we do to handle hassles?  Remember that only 10% of our stress is due to what happens; 90% is due to how we think about what happens.

Yes, hassles do just “happen”; like the hot night I came home late from a trip, the cab driver refused to get out of the cab to lift my luggage from the trunk, my bedraggled cat met me in my house where the air conditioning had clearly gone off earlier in the day, and the mail yielded a second notice for a parking ticket that I hadn’t received in the first place.

Annoying, yes.  Life threatening, no.

One of the ways to protect yourself against “hassle havoc” is to set up systems in advance that work well and efficiently, even when life doesn’t. Good systems can save you time, and help you to keep life running smoothly.

For example, set up a map for all your routine errands: the post office, the drug store, the dry cleaner, the office supply store, etc.  Use this route regularly. It will help you to remember all the little things you need to do to live well.

Put all the things you need to do something about – jacket to be cleaned, shoes to be repaired, sink stopper to be replaced – in a box near the door or in your car.  Keep a small list with you of such things as the numbers for the toner cartridges you use and the odd-shaped bulbs for your odd-shaped light fixture.  Even when you dash out in a panic to do one errand, forgetting about your other needs, you can still use your time efficiently.

Prepare more food than you need for a given meal; freeze small portions for those “oh, my gosh” moments.

My routines are what saved me when I returned from my trip filled with all the things I needed to do, only to find I would instead spend part of the day talking to a repairman for the air conditioner and then a city clerk about the ticket.

When your “hassle thermometer” rises, take a deep breath and say “Stop it” to yourself.

Then consider these questions:

Is this frustration worth dying for? (A real possibility for those with a tendency to cardiac disease, but something for everyone to think about.)

And in the long run, what really matters?

Women’s Warning Signs of a Heart Attack

Personal note

 

February is National Heart Month, and I have been more than ordinarily busy giving my talk, “The Angina Monologue,” in which I describe women’s heart attacks and give preventive advice.  Seeing all the “red” clothing and decorations, hearing of all the “Wear Red” events is exciting – except that cardiac disease occurs all year long, not just in February.

In fact, cardiac disease is the #1 killer of both men and women in the United States; but while the rates for men are declining, the rates for women, particularly in the age 35-54 age group, are rising.

We are surrounded by information about cardiac disease in newspapers, magazines, on the radio and on television, yet most people remain surprisingly ignorant about some of the simple facts of cardiac disease.  So I am once again providing a fuller description of the symptoms, as experienced by real people I have known, including myself.

Women’s Warning Signs of a Heart Attack

 

The “Hollywood Heart Attack,” where the character, clutching his chest, slumps to the floor immediately, does sometimes happen.  But many heart attacks do not mimic this model.  In particular, women’s symptoms of heart attack may be very different from men’s in both quality and severity.

It can be too easy to brush these more subtle symptoms aside; as one woman in my cardiac support group said, “Compared to childbirth, this is nothing!”  But of course, they are something.  And the sooner you pay attention and get help, the better the outcome.

Because I paid attention to a small signal, and took action immediately, I have almost no heart damage and was able to return to a full life immediately.

So I’m going to provide some descriptions here that might give women a clearer picture of what to look for.

Chest discomfort:  
Men typically experience crushing chest pain and pain radiating down one arm.  Some women do also, but many women do not. I only experienced one second of pressure in the middle of my chest, accompanied by a complete lack of breath – once again for one second only.  Luckily, I paid attention.

Another woman I know reports that she felt as if her chest were on fire.

Any pressure, squeezing or burning in the center of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes or comes and goes is a warning sign.

Upper body discomfort in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach:
One woman I knew had pain in her jaw; another was awakened in the middle of the night by very painful elbows, which she fortunately recognized as being related to her heart.  Others tell of pain in the neck, the shoulder or across the shoulder blades.

At a talk I gave recently, a woman told me of a pain in her jaw.  She had been checked for both a dental problem and a tempero-mandibular joint problem, but no evidence of either had been found.  Should she see a cardiologist, she asked?  I almost shouted, “Yes!”

Any pain in the upper body that can’t be explained should be suspect and you should take action.  See a cardiologist; if the pain is marked or persistent, dial 9-1-1 and go to the ER.

Shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort:
Once again, when there is no rational explanation, such as allergy problems or just having run up a flight of stairs, you should be suspicious of shortness of breath.

Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, nausea and vomiting, cold sweats:
I began to experience nausea and lightheadedness a few days after my experience with pressure (I had already seen a doctor, who found nothing wrong with me). It could have been a virus, but I had no temperature. Taking your temperature is a good idea before you decide it is a virus and dismiss the idea of a heart attack.

After I got to the hospital, I began to experience severe gastric distress, a little like the commercials for acid reflux disease, with figurative nuts and bolts revolving around in my stomach!  A doctor asked me, in fact, if I did have acid reflex disease, and when I said no, it was another factor on which they decided to do angioplasty (go in and see if there was blockage).

I know of a young woman athlete who began to faint after she finished races.  She, in fact, had an undiagnosed congenital defect of a heart valve for which she needed surgery.

So, once again, if there isn’t a good explanation for the symptom, seek help.

Feelings of anxiety, fatigue or weakness — unexplained or on exertion:
I have met at least one woman heart patient who tells of being overwhelmed by inexplicable anxiety as her major symptom. Once again, there was no precipitating event in her life, so it was a very suspicious episode.

The extreme fatigue that a heart attack sufferer experiences is like having a hole in your “fuel tank” from which all the energy has drained out.  One woman I know told me that she was so tired she lay down on her bed, and, feeling cold, wanted to pull the covers up but she couldn’t because it was too much effort.  That was when she realized she needed to get to a hospital.

Take Action

There is an e-mail that keeps circulating on the internet, with advice about heart attacks.  Some of it is good advice: carry an aspirin and take it immediately if you believe you are having a heart attack.  In fact, crunch down on it and wash it down with a full glass of water.

But this e-mail always ends with dangerous advice: “Call and friend or relative and wait by the door,” presumably to have that person take you to the hospital.

This is the message health care providers want you to hear: Do not drive yourself or ask a friend or family member to drive you.
If you have any of the above symptoms, dial 9-1-1.  If you are having a heart attack, emergency responders can start treatment in the ambulance. This can be crucial.

Women, who are often reluctant to have a fuss made about themselves, will dial 9-1-1 in a minute if a loved one is threatened, but will not do so for themselves.

Those few minutes in which you wait for help can make all the difference in the world between life and death, or between a quality life and an impaired life.  One of the possible consequences of heart attack is loss of oxygen to the brain, causing irreversible damage.  You could survive, but only as someone very dependent on others.

The last message I like to leave women with is this:  strive to live the heart-healthy life, and you will feel better than you have in years.  Would you like to wake up every morning eager to start the day, with the kind of zest you had as a child? You can do it!  The women in my support group, cardiac survivors all, glow with health.

The path to heart health is the path to joy.  And who doesn’t want joy?

Helping Heart-Wise Women

Heart—wise women are women who:

  • Have had a cardiac event of any kind, or
  • Know they have significant risk factors for cardiac disease.or
  • Are intelligent enough to know their stress-filled lives can kill them

Harried women are:

  • Overly-busy women who  can’t seem to find enough time to  exercise, meditate, and do all the things they know are good for them
  • Working women, women entrepreneurs, women with families, women being caretakers……
  • Just about every woman we know!

As a Certified Life Coach and teacher, I work with overly-busy women who are concerned about their hearts and who can’t find the time to relax or meditate because they believe they have “delegated everything they can delegate and let go of everything possible”.  I help them to shift their perspectives, identify hidden time-wasters, change habitual thoughts and actions that rob them of time, energy, and power,   and discover time for life-enhancing activities.

Looking for Time in the All the Wrong Places

Feeling rushed seems to be a by-product of modern life. We work to have a better life, but discover we have to spend time commuting to the home we were able to provide because of the job.  We take up activities to stay healthful and involved in life, then discover we have increased our commitments to the point where we no longer enjoy these “leisure” activities. We want to do a good job in every aspect of life: work, relationships, child-rearing, home care, and we feel buried in joyless responsibility.

Take time to go to a weekend meditation retreat?  You know it would be good for you, but if you can’t even find the time to sleep in a little later on a weekend, how could you possibly set aside two days of doing nothing?

Many of us keep looking for time in all the wrong places.  Such as, “After I’m through with work, and my commute, and my personal banking business, and my food shopping and meal preparation, and my commitment to other people   ….then I’ll have a little time to relax. And it never happens.

Don’t wait until everything else is done. There’ll never be anything left for you.  Do as personal money managers advise:  Pay yourself first. If possible, spend a few quiet moments at the start of the day meditating. You will start your day feeling more clear-headed about what you plan to accomplish.

Other ideas for managing your time better:

  1. Manage your transitions better. Enter every new task and encounter after you’ve spent a few minutes doing some deep breathing and clearing your mind.  Your loved ones, your boss, even your pets will thank you for being more relaxed
  2. Stress makes you stupid. Remember “Ready, Fire, Aim”?.  Slow down deliberately when starting a new task; write out a plan of what you are going to do (writing it forces you to slow down and think), even (heaven forbid!) read directions first.  The time you spend will be more than repaid by the time you save not having to go back and correct mistakes.
  3. Live in the present, not the past or future:  Rushing to an appointment, reviewing in your mind the coming topic, you park your car, slam the door, and walk away.  An hour later you search frantically for your car in the parking lot or on a city street because you can’t remember where you put it.  Stop when you leave your car, note small landmarks that will orient you, then walk to your appointment mindfully noting passersby and scenery.  You’ll arrive more refreshed and clear-headed, and you won’t  waste time searching for something that shouldn’t have been “lost”.
  4. Give up too much caretaking:  Unless you have a very young child or a helpless invalid in your life, you may be doing a lot more caretaking than is good for you…..or for the other person.. Son forgot his homework and wants you to deliver it to the school?  Maybe once, but after that he is responsible for the consequences of his behavior. Give up obsessing about the possible negative outcome of a friend’s behavior if you can do nothing about it.  The rule is: If you don’t have the authority to do something about it, don’t take the responsibility.

Following the above guidelines may not get you immediately to that two-day meditation retreat, but you’ll find you can create “islands of peace” in the middle of your chaotic days, and perhaps this will be the start of a new way to live, and to love your life.

 

SHRM Recertification Provider Seal 2016

Lynette is a member of MVP Seminars. Visit her at www.MVPSeminars.com

Want to know 33 Secrets of Successful Introverts?
 

“The Forum 2016″ with Lynette Crane

Follow Me!!


Warning: Unknown: open(/home/content/90/5049990/tmp/sess_611vbv5e6q2oo9n8nublf5g981, O_RDWR) failed: No such file or directory (2) in Unknown on line 0

Warning: Unknown: Failed to write session data (files). Please verify that the current setting of session.save_path is correct () in Unknown on line 0