When I think of Valentine’s Day, I think of the heart symbol. This year for Christmas, I bought crochet hearts for my research team Dr. Sheila O’Keefe-McCarthy & Dr. Karyn Taplay. Through Sheila & Karyn, in my role as a research assistant, I have learned a lot about early warning signs that can happen up to two years before other signs and symptoms of when the heart doesn’t work properly!
When I think about heart attacks, I think of the media image
of an older male clutching his chest with a facial expression of pain. The work
of Dr. O’Keefe-McCarthy, and others, is asking people who have had a heart
attack about their experiences to try to move beyond this image.
I have been privileged to sit in on interviews with women.
They readily shared their stories of their heart event (some had experienced a
heart attack, others could get medical help before it reached that point, such
as bypass surgery or stents.)
These women were also asked about their very early warning
signs. These can happen 3-24 months before the heart event. These include
fatigue and anxiety. Most women I know feel fatigue often, and we also brush
off these symptoms, as we are busy caring for others, managing the motherload
as some say.
The other symptoms include increasing anxiety, unusual
fatigue, arm pain/ discomfort, shortness of breath, gastrointestinal
complaints, chest discomfort/ pain, jaw pain, back/ shoulder blade pain,
dizziness, sleep disturbance, headaches.
I feel it is important to get this information out and to
have these discussions with family and friends, especially if anyone in your
circle have a history of heart disease or other risk factors. Risk factors
include high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol, obesity, smoking, stress and
family history of heart disease.
If you experience any of these, or have any concerns or
questions, talk to your health care provider. Also, pass this information on to
your family and friends so that everyone knows this information – all year
long, but also during February for heart month!
For more information, please visit https://brocku.ca/applied-health-sciences/nursing/faculty-research/faculty-directory/sheila-okeefe-mccarthy/
Community Manager - Niagara Region
Masters Candidate, Brock University, Applied Health Science