First of all, I strongly recommend the book Women Are Not Small Men by Nieca Goldberg for all women. There’s nothing but truth in the title. My grandmother was told (twice) when she went into see a doctor (because of heart pain) that she had gastritis. Her autopsy showed that she’d had two silent heart attacks. Do the math. That was my mother’s mother and because she didn’t have the “classic” (aka male) symptoms and because she was female and most people (especially then) thought of heart disease and heart attacks as a gentleman’s game, she was told she had gastritis. My grandmother had lung cancer from decades of smoking, however, that’s not what killed her. Her heart gave out. I’m sure that’s at least partly due to all the damage it incurred from her silent heart attacks.
My mom had a heart attack on Monday, this is Wednesday. This kind of blew us all away a little bit. Fine, it blew us all away COMPLETELY! Even though we know about her mother, this happening to my mom was something we’ve braced ourselves for to happen to our dad…not our mom.
These are the facts:
1. One out of every two women will die of heart disease.
2. More than 500,ooo women die of heart disease each year.
3. More than 250,000 women die from heart attacks each year.
4. Heart disease is the most common cause of death every year in women aged 35 and up.
5. I’m taking these facts straight from Nieca Goldburg’s book so I hope I don’t get sued for whatever it’s called when you use someone else’s research with out their consent.
6. I would think it’s free advertisement for her book because it’s definitely a “must read” if you value your life. My copy is dated 2002 and by now I’m sure all the numbers are higher and that she has more information.
I come from 2 families of bad hearts. That’s not why I own this book. I started smoking when I was 14 years old and that’s not why I own this book. For all of my adult life, the only thing I’ve done that’s good for me (although not necessarily for my health) is to wear underwire bras. True confessions, that’s it. I can’t even call it a vanity thing, I would have to call it an easy thing. When faced with the question “do you do anything that’s good for you?” I could always say “yes”. It helped that my mom worked in lingerie for a few decades…I was conditioned. Anyway, the reason I own this book is because of Carmen.
Anyone who doesn’t know by now that Rob and I were divorced for 13 years just doesn’t know me. That’s the fact, we were divorced for 13 years and we lived life and dated other people and had relationships…and a lot of fun. Well I know I did. During those 13 years, one of the people Rob dated was Carmen. Carmen died of a heart attack when she was 36 years old. Rob is a bit paranoid on the subject, especially knowing the histories of the families I come from so sometimes I try to make him think I’m paying attention to my health…that’s why I own the book. I’ve never read it cover to cover, however, I know there’s a ton of good information that we should all know.
In the bit of paging through this book I’ve learned that we, as women, for the most part, live in denial about our hearts. If we feel any kind of discomfort we just wait for it to go away instead of having it checked out. It’s a proven fact. I am totally guilty of this as well. That’s my comfort zone. This book tells stories of women who finally did agree to go to a hospital…but not until they’d neatened their houses. There have been cases where the little time it took to do that made it just a little too late to save them. My mom was walking uphill when she started having chest pains. She sat down and waited for it to go away. From my understanding that happened a few times. Ask me where I get my living in denial from. That’s probably the single most eye opening thing I’ve learned. That we do that. That we should pay more attention.
Another thing is that a lot of women who have heart attacks experience back pain. My mom did. I thought not but apparently she did know that can be a symptom of a heart attack but she’d also fallen or something recently and had attributed the pain to the fall. My mom’s heart attack was in the back of her heart.
I think that we, as a sex, deny any sort of heart warning unless it’s a classic (aka male) symptom. The chest pain, the left arm, the jaw…these we’ve heard about over and over again because it’s what happens to most males. These things do happen to females as well but these are more common in men. According to Nieca Goldberg, the most common symptoms in women are as follows and this is word for word so again, I hope I’m not sued.
New, unusual shortness of breath during everyday activities (or at rest).
Lower chest discomfort.
Upper abdominal pressure or discomfort.
Then there are, of course the classic which apply more often to men:
Pressure, fullness, squeezing pain in the center of the chest. spreading to the neck, shoulder or jaw.
Chest discomfort w/lightheadedness, fainting , sweating, nausea or shortness of breath.
Not that I’m good at taking my own advise but at least I know the facts so I can pick and choose. I want every female to be able to pick and choose. Pick up the book, learn the facts and take note of yourselves and your moms and your sisters and your daughters and your girlfriends and don’t live in denial. That’s all.