32-year-old woman survives a massive heart attack

9:25 AM, Feb 5, 2010   |    comments
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NBC -- In case you didn't get the memo, Friday is the day to wear red.

It's part of the American Heart Association's "Go Red For Women" movement to raise awareness of heart disease in women.

A woman is rushed to the hospital after passing out.

She'd been feeling anxious, sick at her stomach, disoriented.

The doctors check her out and assume she's just had a panic attack not realizing until a day later, she's had a massive heart attack.

After all, the woman is only 32 years old.

"It was pretty scary because I just was like how could this happen? I'm healthy, I eat right, I exercise, you know? Every emotion was running through my body," said heart attack survivor Sheila Dutton.

Dutton simply wasn't the typical heart disease patient.

But within weeks she suffered two more heart attacks and had to have emergency double bypass surgery.

Doctors gave her a 1% chance of survival.

"I knew that I had to keep fighting and I had to, you know, keep surviving. I wanted to beat the odds," Dutton said.

Odds are a woman in your life will die from heart disease.

It's the number one killer of women.

"Our risk for heart disease starts early, perhaps even before the age of 20," said cardiologist Dr. Mieca Goldberg.

That's why doctors say it's crucial for young women to get into heart healthy habits early in life starting with exercise.

"It lowers blood pressure, raises your good cholesterol, lowers your bad cholesterol and also reduces stress," Goldberg said.

Quitting smoking and getting to a healthy weight also reduce the risk for heart disease.

Sheila didn't have any of the typical risk factors for a heart attack.

In her case, doctors suspect a virus from a recent chest cold had settled into her heart.

Experts say the best thing she did was trust her intuition that something was very wrong.

"You are your own woman, you know? You should know your own body, and if you're not feeling well, don't put it off. Don't wait because it's your life," said Dutton.

It's advice that could help you beat the odds as well.

Chest discomfort is the most obvious sign of a heart attack, but experts say other signs for women can be vague.

Women may also break out into a cold sweat and experience shortness of breath, nausea, and pain in the back or jaw.

NBC

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