It all started on Christmas morning in 2012. I felt a heavy tightness across my chest that I had never felt before. It felt like someone was tightening a belt around my breasts and holding on for dear life. The feeling lasted for two weeks and was so foreign, but I just shrugged it off as normal holiday stress.
After our family returned from a trip to Florida a few weeks later, I started having scary heart-racing episodes 3 to 4 times a week. They would start and stop suddenly for no apparent reason – and it felt like I was running a marathon even at rest. I was also having more headaches than usual, aches and pains in my upper body, shortness of breath going up and down the stairs, and was tired all the time. One morning at work, I even had a panic attack standing in line at the cafeteria. These events were not usual for me because I’m not a smoker and not overweight and have always considered myself a healthy person.
But the next night, as I was putting my kids to bed, I had the most horrific feeling. I got a sharp pain in my right shoulder that shot all the way down my arm. It felt as though someone hit me hard with a baseball bat. Then pain started to trickle around my back so I ran downstairs to where my husband was standing in the kitchen. My arm started to go limp.
Panic-stricken, he asked if he should call an ambulance. But I screamed “No!” because it was my right arm. (Needless to say since then I’ve learned that women can experience different symptoms like pain in their right arms, a feeling of indigestion, or back aches during an attack – but you seldom hear of it.) Then, I had an overwhelming feeling of exhaustion. It was only 8 o'clock but if I had of stood there any longer, I would have fallen to the floor.
Looking back I know I should have gone to the hospital that night, but I was in denial. After all, I was only 39 and I had to get the kids to bed, right?!
This is a typical reaction of moms, and women in general, which I've since coined "Supermom Syndrome." It's when we simply do not think about ourselves in times of need.
This was the beginning of my heart health journey and now 13 months later I am happy to report that I am feeling better than ever (except for a torn meniscus in my left knee but that was my own fault during an intense workout. Ouch!).
The biggest lesson I’ve learned about my heart health is that if it can happen to me, then it can happen to anyone. I wasn’t leading a bad life before. I don’t smoke. I'm not obese. I have no history of heart disease in my immediate family, and I don’t have high blood pressure. But I was stressed – and I didn’t realize how much. My body was ready to shut down and I wasn’t ready to listen, until I had to.
This past month I’ve been fortunate to tell my story on various radio and television shows and I hope that my story will inspire others to think about their heart health and take note when their body is telling them to slow down. It’s not easy to do, but it’s very important.
According to a recent Leger survey commissioned by Jamieson Vitamins, only 25 percent of those surveyed between the ages of 25-44 believe they are at risk of heart disease, which is so not the case! In fact, the CANHEART Health Index states that 90 percent of Canadians in this age group are actually in poor cardiovascular health. That's 1 in 5.
It's not just an older person's issue. I'm proof of that.
So there you go, my friends. This is just a snippet of my tale and the self love and healing continues. When I reflect, I truly feel my health scare was a catalyst for what I am doing now: Helping spread the word about being heart aware. After all, the universe does work in mysterious ways and perhaps this is what I was meant to do.
I hope you'll check back for more on what I’m doing to stay on track with my eating, exercise and supplement program; as well as tips on how to lessen the stressors in your life. These are the things that I took for granted before my wake-up call last January and I really want to make sure you think about them in your own lives.
Stay heart aware,