Heart Disease in Women Displays Different Symptoms
For most women, a tight-fitting bra is uncomfortable, but for retired school administrative secretary Nancy Teschke, it was a lifesaving signal to see a doctor!
A few years ago, Teschke came to the painful realization that she had gained a lot of weight; in fact, she was at an all-time high. So she embarked on a weight-loss journey that included hiking, biking and golf. To her delight, this young-at-heart, active wife and mother of adult children lost 50 pounds following a year’s investment of dedicated effort.
Relaxing on a vacation in Branson, Mo., last fall, however, she wondered why her bra felt tight while watching TV. She admittedly felt a little lightheaded and fatigued on occasion, but chalked it up to needing new glasses, overdoing activities or overeating on vacation, especially after a round of golf and visiting tourist attractions. In the back of her mind, she also knew her dad had suffered heart disease, but quickly put that out of her mind.
Luckily, her husband ignored her excuses and took Nancy to the nearest emergency room where an angioplasty revealed a 99 percent blockage in her main coronary artery and a 50 percent blockage in a second one. This degree of blockage is often referred to as “the widow maker.” Two stents were inserted and after a short hospital stay, she returned home to New Lenox, still overwhelmed by the experience and concerned about the future. “It was frightening to realize that what I assumed was minor discomfort actually indicated a desperately dangerous heart condition,” Nancy revealed.
She called Heartland Cardiovascular and connected with cardiologist Hazem Al Muradi, M.D. who designed a follow-up care plan that included cardiac rehabilitation at Silver Cross Hospital.
“This was a big wake-up call for me, and I appreciated the informative staff guidance during my rehab program. I learned why I was doing certain exercises and what I could expect in terms of health improvements. The staff was friendly and knowledgeable, and the constant monitoring gave me confidence that I could safely return to a normal, even healthier life,” she said.
Silver Cross rehabilitation nurses and exercise physiologists monitor activities with telemetry and helped Teschke learn to change her bike riding to a level that benefits her heart.
“I learned about building cardio endurance and strength fitness through monitored activities and education. I attended classes to learn about diet and lifestyle changes that would improve my overall heart health and fitness such as watching hidden sodium levels and stress management techniques,” she explained.
Having recently completed 36 rehabilitation sessions over 12 weeks, Teschke says she feels stronger and younger.
“I share my new insights about diet and lifestyle with my adult children and through social media groups,” she said. “Next, I am considering follow-up with the Phase III rehab, more like a gym membership, or even purchasing a treadmill so I can follow up with my routine at home.“
Unfortunately, Teschke’s initial dismissal of symptoms is not uncommon – especially in women. Her advice: talk to your doctor about any minor changes in physical symptoms and follow their advice.
Teschke’s “tight bra” helped her recognize symptoms, reduce risk factors and follow up with new ways to live a healthier and longer life! For more information about heart care at Silver Cross or to find a physician, visit www.silvercross.org.