Now, if I was Charlie Sheen, this might be reminiscent of pretty much any other birthday… and while I might have partied pretty hard in my younger days, these days I’m more partial to a nice glass of wine and a good home-cooked meal before settling down to discuss the merits of solar power. Yeah – rock on!!!
In 2008, however, I had to abandon the wine and good food to undergo open heart-surgery. And not just my first… but my third.
I was unfortunate enough to be born with a heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot. I underwent my first surgery at around 18 months of age, which kept me going until I was 5, when more extensive surgery was carried out.
So why am I sharing all of this with you?
Well, this week is Heart Week, and given heart disease kills up to 4 times as many women as breast cancer each year, I think it’s important to raise awareness.
It’s also critical to understand how heart attacks can present very differently in women and men. In women, they can often be mistaken for gastrointestinal problems or even anxiety by doctors and emergency room staff.
Not surprising when you consider the symptoms.
Typically, men seem to suffer the more “classical” symptoms of heart attack: crushing chest pain which can also radiate down the left arm and to the jaw. Although these symptoms are not uncommon in women, many may not feel much chest pain at all and instead suffer from much subtler symptoms such as:
- Shortness of breath
- Sleep disturbances
- Pain in the neck, shoulder, upper back or abdomen
If you’ve been experiencing any of these symptoms and can’t attribute them to any change in your activities or lifestyle, GET TO A DOCTOR! After all… you wouldn’t ignore a lump in your breast!
For more information, you can visit the Heart Foundation and I urge you to share this article with the women in your life. It may just save one of them!
And yes… the x-ray is mine (and if you look very carefully, you may even see the smaller wires from my previous surgeries).