Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States.
Story by Eddy Hoyle + Photography by Lisa Staff
Becky Herman is the picture of health: young, fit, she exercises regularly, and eats right. Yet at 55 years young, she had a heart attack. “I have a family history of heart disease and I really felt I was over-aware and overly cautious because of my father’s history of heart disease and his parents’ heart attacks. I have been monitoring my heart for 10 years…I have blood tests annually and I felt I knew the warning signs.”
Herman runs every day, goes to the gym regularly and does serious biking. Six months ago she was working out at a cross fit boot camp. “It just hit me and I couldn’t breathe. It felt like someone was tazering my arms, neck and upper torso. It was just so foreign to me, I didn’t know I was having a heart attack. There were no warning signs.”
At first she couldn’t move, but eventually she got up and drove herself home. When her sister, Susie, saw her, she had no color and could barely move. She called a friend who is a health care professional who unequivocally told her to take Herman to the emergency room. Herman was admitted, underwent angioplasty and a stent was placed in her right coronary artery – which was completely blocked. Herman knows if she hadn’t gone to the hospital she would have died.
“This made me recognize the importance of awareness. When I told others about what happened to me, they started getting more serious about getting tested themselves. My motivation is to speak out to get someone to take action if they recognize warning signs or to maybe understand what they may be feeling could be a problem.”
Herman and her business partner, Monica Davis, have a goal to raise $10,000 for the American Heart Association’s 21st Heart Ball in February. To help, find Herman and Davis Properties on Facebook.
Health Fact: Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States
Women too often chalk up the symptoms to less life-threatening conditions like acid reflux or the flu. The American Heart Association warns that even when the signs are subtle, the consequences can be deadly, especially if the victim doesn’t get help right away.
Both men and women can experience chest pressure that feels like an elephant sitting on the chest, but women may experience a heart attack without chest pressure. They may experience shortness of breath, pressure or pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, upper back pressure or extreme fatigue. Females often think they had the flu.
Scary Statistics about Heart Disease
- A heart attack strikes someone about every 43 seconds.
- Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) rank as America’s number 1 killer while stroke is the number 5 cause of death.
- Nearly 2,200 Americans die of CVD each day. That is one person every 39 seconds.
Surprising Drinks you Should Eliminate
The American Heart Association recommends a heart-healthy diet, and most of us know the villains: red meat, deep fried foods, processed and cured meats, pizza and fast food.
Here are some other, less known culprits to avoid:
- Blended coffee is overloaded with fats, calories and sugar and can cause the blood sugar levels to rise. Add in the caffeine and blood pressure levels rise.
- Energy drinks contain ingredients like guarana and taurine, natural energy boosters. When these are mixed with such high amounts of caffeine, it can cause racing heartbeats and arrhythmia.
- Soda causes inflammation and raises blood sugar levels putting stress on the walls of the arteries.
Heart Attack Symptoms in Women
If you have any of these signs, call 911 and get to a hospital right away.
1. Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
2. Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
3. Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
4. Cold sweat, nausea/vomiting or lightheadedness.
On the Ball
The American Heart Association’s 21st annual Heart Ball of the Southern Coast will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 2, at the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa. It is a black-tie gala with a pre-event reception and silent auction, followed by an elegant dinner, inspiring program, a live auction and entertainment. For tickets, contact Carla Raines at 843-540-6338 or visit southerncoastheartball.org.