DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – From jackets to dresses to dress ties, North Texans today decided to “Go Red for Women.” The annual effort from the American Heart Association aims to raise awareness and dispel the myth that women need not worry. Just ask Edwina Gray.
“When you can’t walk 10 feet without getting out of breath,” said Gray, “and having to stop and rest, yes, that’s a good indicator that something is wrong.”
So wrong that Gray is now under the care of Parkland Hospital’s Cardiac Rehab Clinic, having survived her second open heart surgery. “I was really scared, because I was thinking, I may not survive this this time around,” she said.
According to the American Heart Association, contrary to common perceptions, heart disease is the nation’s number one killer of women: claiming a life nearly every minute. According to AHA researchers, 64 percent of women who die suddenly had no previous symptoms. Or were the symptoms so seemingly benign that they were simply ignored?
“Neck fatigue, neck pain, as unusual as ear discomfort,” said Parkland Cardiologist Dr. Satyam Sarma. “If you have these symptoms, really think about: is there anything else going on? Or are you having any other shortness of breath symptoms, are you getting light headed, nauseated or dizzy, … so it’s really never just one symptom in isolation — it can be– but, more often than not, it’s a pattern of other symptoms.”
Dr. Sarma, who is also an assistant professor in internal medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center, says women should be especially concerned if suspicious symptoms appear during physical exertion.
Be mindful, too, of other risk factors including smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, a family history, diabetes or obesity.
On the other hand, maintaining a heart healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be complicated — patients are encouraged to exercise regularly, and eat a diet that’s low in salt and cholesterol and high in fiber.
Now, as she climbs up on a treadmill, Gray knows that step by step she’s making her way back to good health.
“I try to get my 30 minutes in,” said Gray. “[I’m] trying to get that heart, back to where it should be. I think I can make it, hopefully another 20 to 30 years.”