By Cassie Gerr, MA Intern
During the month of February we see hearts all around decorating spaces for Valentine’s Day, but it is also a reminder that February is National Heart Health Month. Heart disease takes the lives of more than 600,000 Americans a year. Just as we love with our heart, it is important to take care of our hearts. I know from personal experience how crucial this is. On March 31, 2021, I was in my car after work when I received a phone call that my father had been on a walk and suffered a heart attack. The type of heart attack he suffered from is sometimes referred to as the “widow maker heart attack” because it is so imminently threatening. A widow maker heart attack happens when there is a blockage in the LAD, which supplies blood to half of your heart muscle.
I lost my dad at 20 years old. This shock was something I could never have imagined just hours before. This traumatic experience has shown me how important it is to educate ourselves about the signs and symptoms of a heart attack. My hope is that by sharing this information I can help people recognize signs in themselves and loved ones to prevent tragic loss.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
A week before my dad’s heart attack, he noticed chest pain and thought it was just a pulled muscle. Chest discomfort/pain is one of the major signs of a heart attack. Not only did he have chest pain, but also had shoulder pain the week prior (Page, 2019). Upper body pain in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or upper stomach is another symptom of a heart attack. At the time, my father was also short of breath. Because we were living amidst a pandemic, he understandably believed he had Covid-19. However, his symptom was not caused by Covid, rather it was a sign of his impending heart attack. Shortness of breath is another symptom. Additional signs of a heart attack include: nausea, feeling lightheaded, or experiencing cold sweats (WeAreWellness, 2017). Not all of these symptoms need to be present in order for a heart attack to occur, but by knowing the symptoms and educating others, my hope is that you can prevent a heart attack from being life threatening. Women are less likely to have signs of a heart attack, so it is important to eat healthy and take care of your body and heart.
There are ways other than diet and exercise to prevent heart attack—one being laughter. Research has shown that laughing may increase your overall health by increasing blood flow. A laugh a day keeps the doctor away! Another thing to keep in mind is that you know your body better than anyone else. If you feel something is wrong, go to the doctor. Unfortunately for my father, he had planned to see the doctor the day following his heart attack. Don’t wait another day to start taking care of your heart! This Heart Health Month, show your love for others by caring for your own heart and educating others about how to care for their own hearts. Happy Valentine’s Day!
Page, S. (2019). 7 heart health facts to share during American Heart month - totalwellness. Total Wellness Health. Retrieved February 8, 2023, from https://info.totalwellnesshealth.com/blog/7-heart-health-facts-to-share-during-american-heart-month
WeAreWellness. (2017, February 10). Heart health month – interesting facts. National Corporate Wellness Solutions Consultant. Retrieved February 7, 2023, from https://www.wearewellness.com/2017/02/10/heart-health-month-facts/