Women and heart attacks
I've meant to send this to my women friends to warn them that it's true that women rarely have the same dramatic symptoms that men have when experiencing a heart attack... you know, the sudden stabbing pain in the chest, the cold sweat, grabbing the chest dropping to the floor that we see in the movies.
Having had a completely unexpected heart attack about 10:30 p.m. with NO prior exertion, NO prior emotional trauma that one would suspect might've brought it on, it was this past April, '06, about 1-1/2 hours after I'd spent a pleasant 2 hrs rehearsing with the Note-a-Belles. I was sitting all snuggly & warm on a cold evening, with my purring cat in my lap, reading an interesting story my friend had sent me, and actually thinking, "A-A-h, this is the life, all cozy and warm in my soft, cushy Lazy Boy with my feet propped up.
A moment later, I felt that awful sensation of indigestion, when you've been in a hurry and grabbed a bite of sandwich and washed it down with a dash of water, and that hurried bite seems to feel like you've swallowed a golf ball going down the esophagus in slow motion and it is most uncomfortable.
You realize you shouldn't have gulped it down so fast and needed to chew it more thoroughly and this time drink a glass of water to hasten its progress down to the stomach, which doesn't do much good, as your esophagus and throat muscles are in spasm and it hurts to swallow.
This was my initial sensation — the only trouble was that I hadn't taken a bite of anything since about 5:00 p.m. After that had seemed to subside, the next sensation was like little squeezing motions that seemed to be racing up my SPINE (hind-sight, it was probably my aorta spasming), gaining speed as they continued racing up and under my sternum (breast bone, where one presses rhythmically when administering CPR). This fascinating process continued on into my throat and branched out into both jaws.
AHA!! NOW I stopped puzzling about what was happening. We all have read and/or heard about pain in the jaws being one of the signals of a heart attack happening, haven't we?
I said aloud to myself and the cat, "Dear God, I think I'm having a heart attack!" I lowered the footrest, dumping the cat from my lap, started to take a step and fell on the floor instead. I thought to myself, "If this is a heart attack, I shouldn't be walking into the next room where the phone is or anywhere else.... but, on the other hand, if I don't, nobody will know that I need help. And if I wait any longer, I may not be able to get up in moment."
I pulled myself up with the arms of the chair, walked slowly into the next room and dialed the paramedics. I guess when one reaches them, your address automatically flashes on a screen, as the operator verified my address immediately and asked my symptoms.
I told her I thought I was having a heart attack due to the pressure building under the sternum and radiating into my jaws. I didn't feel hysterical or afraid, just stating the facts, ma'm. She said she was sending the paramedics over immediately, asked if the front door was near to me, and if so, to unbolt the door and then lie down on the floor where they could see me when they came in. No, I didn't take an aspirin, as I'm allergic to it, but I did take a 100 mg magnesium oxide capsule... which bottle I keep handily in reach on the kitchen counter... which is a small detour on my way to the front door...with about a 3/4 glass of water to get it dissolving ASAP into my bloodstream.
Magnesium relaxes blood vessels as it dissolves to get them expanded to let blood get through the constriction of the vessels. I then laid down on the floor as instructed and lost consciousness, as I don't remember the medics coming in... their examination... lifting me onto a gurney or getting me into their ambulance... or hearing the call they made to St. Jude ER on the way. But I did briefly awaken when we arrived and saw that the cardiologist was already there in his surgical blues and cap, helping the medics pull my stretcher out of the ambulance.
He was bending over me asking questions (probably something like "Have you taken any medications?") but I couldn't make my mind interpret what he was saying, or form an answer, and nodded off again... not waking up until the cardiologist and partner had already threaded the teeny angiogram balloon up my femoral artery into the aorta and into my heart where they installed two side-by-side stents to hold open my right coronary artery and now was being taken into the CCU, and looking up at the three anxious faces of Karen, Mark, and Wendy. Since I'd been a patient at St. Jude in 2002 for my TIA treatment, they had my emergency info in their system and had called my kids. I spent two days in CCU and two in general ward, then was discharged.
I know it sounds like all my thinking and actions at home must have taken at least 20-30 minutes before calling the paramedics, but actually it took perhaps 4-5 minutes before the call, and both the fire station and St. Jude are only minutes away from my home, and my Cardiologist was already to go to the OR in his scrubs and get going on restarting my heart (which had stopped somewhere between my arrival and the procedure) and installing the stents.
Why have I written all of this to you with so much detail? Because I want all of you who are so important in my life to know what I learned firsthand, as a Certified Medical Back-Office Assistant in Internal Medicine Clinics, and as one who has lived through a heart attack due to:
SUBJECT: Drinking ice water at mealtime (which I've always done until now.) Noting neither Urban Legions nor Snopes has anything to say about this one, it must be true. Interesting, if you've read it before, re-read it. It may save your life. Send it to your friends and family. It may save their lives....
This is a very good article. Not only about the warm water after your meal, but about ladies and their heart attacks. This makes sense... the Chinese and Japanese drink hot tea with their meals... not cold water... maybe it is time we adopt their drinking habit while eating!!! Nothing to lose — everything to gain...
For those who like to drink cold water, this article is applicable to you. It is nice to have a cup of cold drink after a meal. However, the cold water will solidify the oily stuff that you have just consumed. It will slow down the digestion. Once this "sludge" reacts with the stomach's hydrochloric acid, it will break down and be absorbed by the intestine faster than the solid food. It will line the intestine. Very soon, this will turn into fats and lead to cancer. It is best to drink hot soup or warm water after a meal. (Make it green tea — a great antioxidant!)
A serious note about heart attacks: Women should know that not every heart attack symptom is going to be the left arm hurting. Be aware of intense pain in the jaw line, or even pressure there and under the sternum, or "indigestion" symptoms, especially if you haven't eaten in several hours. You may never have the first chest pain during the course of a heart attack, but heaviness /pressure under the sternum is common. Nausea and intense sweating are also common symptoms, but not necessarily in the women. 60% of people who have heart attacks while they are asleep do not wake up.
Pain in the jaw can wake you from a sound sleep. Let's be careful and be aware. The more we know, the better chance we could survive.
A cardiologist says if everyone who gets this email and sends it to ten people, you can be sure that we'll save at least one life.
Barbara "liquid asset" Mikkelson
Medical and Business Training Associates