Heart attacks can strike when you least expect. We asked people who survived heart attacks to tell us what they wish they’d done differently, so the rest of us can take better care of our health before it’s too late.
“I should have changed GPs.”
Mine wouldn’t listen to me, even going as far as to laugh at me, when I told him of the overwhelming fatigue I was experiencing.
“I wish I’d taken 5 deep breaths.”
My advice for others: Choose your relationships carefully. Take actions that benefit you ASAP and get out of stressful situations. Saying yes is good; saying no is more powerful. [Also,] I wish I’d taken five deep breaths several times a day and chilled.
“I would have paid closer attention to all the warning signs.”
As is typical for most women, we have a tendency to rationalize our symptoms. I chalked up my fatigue to working 50-60 hours per week and caring for an aging parent; the shortness of breath was due to the Florida heat and humidity; the right elbow pain was because of a previous injury. I should have been more proactive in seeing my primary care physician. With my strong family history of heart disease, I really needed to see a cardiologist. Of course it would have helped to have lab work and EKGs done on a more regular basis.
“Let someone call 911.”
I got terrible pain in my upper back just left of my spine. When I went back to bed, I felt really sick. My wife wanted to call 911, but I had no chest pain so I said I’d be fine. I went to urgent care the next morning where they gave me a muscle relaxant. I didn’t know it was a heart attack until my annual physical 6 months later. I was very lucky. My advice: Let your mate call 911. Better a live patient than a dead martyr.
“What you don’t know can kill you.”
Know your family history. What you don't know can kill you. Most importantly, listen to your body at all times. I knew at least a week before the actual cardiac event that something was off and I was experiencing warning signs (shortness of breath, chest pains, and tiredness).
“Know that you aren’t alone.”
Social and emotional support matter, and it’s important to learn and share from other women who have been through similar experiences, so that you can move forward and thrive, even after your diagnosis.
“It took me nearly dying to finally make a change.”
I wish I went to the doctor. I knew something was off. It got to the point where I couldn't even walk down the street without losing my breath. I was eating a diet of entirely processed meats and barely any vegetables. It was comfortable. It was how I was raised. Until one day, I woke up in a hospital bed. Fat, sick, and almost dead. I've always had a hard head and I have to learn lessons the hard way. It took me nearly dying to finally make a change.