What is the first symptom of heart disease? For many, it's death. 50% of men and 64% of women who have a fatal heart attack had no knowledge they had heart disease.
I write this blog and Tweet (@skinnybitchchro) and Facebook heart disease related information a lot for a reason. It is so those of you reading this, those of you following me on Twitter and my friends on Facebook think of me when you feel symptoms. So that I am the voice in the back of your head when you have chest pain that repeats "call an ambulance, call an ambulance, call an ambulance." So that you are not part of the statistic above. I did not know I had heart disease and lived because I called an ambulance.
Every time someone my age (45-50 age range) dies that my friends (also in this age range) know, I get a flood of messages about it. It always makes me glad I survived and sad that person didn't-- sad for their families and sad for all the things that will never be. I always hope that peace finds the ones left behind. More than that, I am glad that I am the person that always pops into the heads of those I know when they find out someone died of a heart attack. The fact that so many will sit down and take the time to write me a note means that my purpose is clear. I am most certainly here to educate and make some difference for those I know when (not if) they face heart disease. To educate and turn it instead to if (not when) they face heart disease.
An acquaintance from my younger years just lost her husband who was 50 to a sudden massive heart attack. I was not close to her and have not seen her in 30 years. I have heard from many of our mutual friends today. I have heard from many of them because he "looked healthy". You do not have to look unhealthy to have heart disease. You do not have to look unhealthy to have cancer, diabetes, lupus, MS or a whole host of other diseases. Not everyone who is sick looks sick and not everyone knows they are sick. They think the same thing about themselves when they look in the mirror--"I don't look sick." This equates to "I am not at risk." Just as they settle into that medical comfort zone, they are dead of a massive heart attack that leaves everyone else who thinks the same thing in a state of shock. Well, I didn't look sick either when I had a sudden massive heart attack. Now I have heart disease and I still don't look sick.
The fact that I did not look sick did not keep heart disease at bay--if it worked that way, we would have too many doctors. The fact is, heart disease and stroke do not discriminate. They don't care if you are young or old, fat or thin, marathon runner or couch potato. They don't care if you are black, white, Latino, gay, straight, purple or green. They don't care if you have a MD, PhD, JD, BS, MBA or not. They don't care if you are married or single, have children or don't.
I do my part to try to impress this upon others. Heart disease and stroke do not discriminate. See your doctor (even if you are a doctor), know your numbers and educate yourselves. You can look healthy today and be dead tomorrow.