My best friend had a heart attack when she was barely 50 years old. Her husband, the love of her life, had passed away the previous year from diabetes complications. I think her heart was broken in more ways than one.
A year later my friend's older sister suffered a heart attack too. She'd been having some neck pain, most noticeable when lifting her toddler-aged granddaughter, and blamed it on too much computer time. After a couple of weeks, she finally had it checked out. She was admitted to the hospital immediately with a blockage in the main artery going down the front of her heart, a condition commonly called the "widowmaker." Widowermaker in her case, I guess.
Both of these ladies survived. Not everyone is so lucky.
Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death in women with diabetes? It's also the most common long-term complication.
Would you know how to recognize a heart attack if you were having one? I made sure to learn the signs after my friend's experience:
- a squeezing sensation or pain in the center of the chest
- pain in the neck, shoulder, or jaw
- shortness of breath
- unusual fatigue
- discomfort in the abdomen that feels like a bad case of indigestion
- back pain
I'm also doing what I can to lower my risk for developing heart disease. I exercise at least six days a week (most of the time), keep tabs on my blood pressure and cholesterol, monitor my blood sugar, eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, and try to manage my formerly out-of-control stress levels. Even when I'm crazy busy, I make an effort to get enough sleep. I've discovered that I'm much more productive when I work fewer hours, but am well-rested, than when I work a ton of hours without sleeping much. That was a lesson that took at least one career change to learn.
February is American Heart Month. Spend some time thinking about your own heart and what you can do to keep it strong and healthy.
And how's my friend who had the incredibly bad year doing now? She's getting remarried on Valentine's Day!