HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Heart disease kills more women in the US than any other medical condition, including all forms of cancer combined.
And women are diagnosed later than men because the symptoms are often different.
February is Heart Month, part of the American Heart Association’s efforts to raise awareness.
Tammy Arakaki of Pearl City was just 47 years old when she started having unexplained pain around her shoulder blade.
“I had no shortness of breath or chest pain,” Arakaki said.
But shoulder pain kept him up at night for years.
She went to her orthopedist and her regular doctor, but no one could figure out what was causing the pain.
Eventually, the pain worsened and Arakaki went to the emergency room at Pali Momi Medical Center.
“They said I was having a heart attack,” he said.
Arakaki was not only heart damaged, his kidneys were also damaged and one of his legs was damaged.
He didn’t think he would ever walk again.
“I had to go through serious physical therapy,” said Arakaki, who can now walk, drive and work.
But maybe one day she will need a transplant.
Dr. Sanah Christopher, a cardiologist at Hawaii Pacific Health, said her patients often wait to get help because they don’t realize they’re having a heart attack.
“The longer you wait to seek attention, the more (likely) the heart will suffer from lack of blood flow,” Christopher said, adding that women also seem to be more likely to seek help.
“Some of my heart attack patients have even mentioned that they don’t want to worry their families if they have to go to the emergency room.”
Last November, my 78-year-old mother suffered a massive heart attack at home.
A family member began CPR until emergency responders could arrive.
Her heart restarted after paramedics with EMS used a defibrillator. When my mother was in the intensive care unit, the doctors asked me what symptoms she had before the heart attack.
One symptom that stood out: He started vomiting hours before he regained consciousness.
She thought it was food poisoning.
Vomiting is one of the most common symptoms reported by women, Christopher said.
“Nausea, vomiting, many patients may even assume it’s indigestion or acid reflux,” he said.
Christopher said women should be aware of all the symptoms of a heart attack.
Some women have chest pain just like men, but there are often other symptoms:
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in the shoulder, back
- Nausea, vomiting, stomach pain that can feel like indigestion
Christopher said to be especially vigilant if you have any of these risk factors:
- Family history (genetic predisposition)
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Being overweight or obese
According to Christopher, prevention is important because it’s never too late to make lifestyle changes.
- If you are a smoker, stop smoking.
- Exercise at least three times a week
- Eat plant-based food
My mother survived.
After weeks in the hospital and then in a rehab, she was able to be home in time for Christmas.
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