Putting Your Heart in the Right Place

  • Monday, January 23, 2012

At first, Gay Prosser blamed the vomiting and the pain in the middle of her chest on a previous back injury. She did not consider herself a candidate for heart problems. In fact, Prosser – a 46- year-old middle school mom at the time – had recently dropped to a size 6.

It was the left arm pain that she couldn’t explain, and when her symptoms persisted through the night into the morning, she decided to get checked out. Yet she downplayed her concerns to her husband and insisted on driving herself 10 minutes to Trident Medical Center because she didn’t want to stop him from heading into work or her son from going to school. She also was in a state of disbelief. “I honestly never thought it would happen to me.”

While she made it TMC and received the lifesaving care she needed, she knows now that the best choice that day, almost six years ago, would have been to call 911 as soon as the persistent symptoms suggested a heart attack. That way, she would have received initial treatment as quickly as possible from emergency responders who also would have alerted TMC to prepare for her arrival.

But Prosser says she didn’t want to upset the apple cart, and the same could be said of many women. One study of heart attack patients shows that, on average, women wait 22 minutes longer than men before going to the hospital after signs of an attack, according to “The Heart Truth” campaign by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

“The Heart Truth” campaign has brought a growing awareness to the risks that women face and what they can do about it, as have local efforts. Trident Health will host four free American Heart Month events during February, including “Women & Heart Health – Love Your Heart” from 4:30-7 p.m. Feb. 2 at Trident Medical Center. The ladies night out will include a free dinner and live music. To register for any of these free heart month events, please call Consult-A-Nurse at 843-797- FIND (3463).

“Women have the mistaken idea that they are less prone to have cardiovascular disease than other diseases, but it is by far the No. 1 killer of women,”
-Dr. Woodfield of Lowcountry Cardiology Associates.

Dr. Woodfield explains that it is critical for anyone having a heart attack – whether they are a man or a woman – to receive emergency medical assistance quickly and be taken to a facility such as TMC that has a heart catheterization team that can clear the blockage causing the heart attack and restore blood flow. “We know that every minute that passes during a heart attack more permanent damage is happening to the heart muscle,” he says.

Yet for women, heart attack symptoms might be harder to pick up on, says Allison Walters, Assistant Vice President for Cardiovascular Services for Trident Health. “It is not always the classic chest pain,” she says.

 Heart Attack Warning Signs for Women:
• Pressure, fullness, squeezing pain in the center of the chest, spreading to the neck, shoulder or jaw.
• Chest discomfort with lightheadedness, fainting, sweating, nausea or shortness of breath.
• Upper abdominal pressure or discomfort
• Lower chest discomfort
• Back pain
• Unusual fatigue
• Unusual shortness of breath
• Dizziness
• Nausea

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