Heart issues in women hits close to home for our CEO, Carolyn. Below she shares her heart story.
It was just a panic attack. It had to be. There was no way that the rapid beating of my heart was anything beyond a manifestation of my stress.
It was January, only about a month after my 30th birthday. I had no idea the crazy ride I was about to embark upon with my health over the next year plus.
The first time I had a noticeable issue with my heart, I was in New York City for work, leaving a dinner, jumping into a cab. At first, I couldn’t catch my breath. No big deal, I thought. Just calm yourself down. The tightness in my chest and rapid beating persisted. Blocks passed, and no relief.
Back at the hotel, I waited and tried baby aspirin. Nothing was giving relief.
Work had become incredibly stressful; the office I worked in on the West Coast had just learned that it would be closing. There was a lot of uncertainty, which I had convinced myself was the reason for my self-diagnosed anxiety.
Ignoring the feeling in my gut, I decided to wait out these heart palpitations. And wait I did. It was nearly 12 hours later that my heart rate decreased to normal and I finally got some sleep.
Confused by what had happened, but dismissing my own intuition, I brushed this incident off as a random fit of anxiety due to my work situation.
Then it happened again. I was simply walking my dog at a very leisurely pace, and bam – my heart rate jumped. The feeling was the exact same as it had been months before; my body shook, my stomach got tight. But again, I convinced myself that the anxiety just lingered, even after the job was gone.
Finally, a third episode and nearly 22 hours of discomfort and rapid heart beats and I knew I needed to take action. Even on the drive to the emergency room, I had convinced myself that the ER staff would just toss me a Xanax and send me on my way. I could not have been more wrong.
So fatigued from almost an entire day battling heart palpitations, I could barely walk myself down the hospital corridor to the ER waiting room. I mentioned my rapid heart rate to at check-in, and I was seen nearly immediately. The triage nurse took a quick blood pressure, and heart rate, and wasted no time getting me to a bed and hooked up to a heart rate monitor. My heart rate was steady at a very fast rate of 280 beats per minute. Normal heart rate is considered between 60 – 100 beats per minute (bpm).
My EKG -- The large spikes represent the tachycardia
After medication unsuccessfully lowered my heart rate to a normal level, the doctor explained to me the last option used to lower a rapid heart rate: Electricity. They would sedate me, and then administer a shock of electricity, known as a cardioversion, to snap my heart back into normal rhythm. While this is a normal tactic at the ER, I could tell that it wasn’t every day that a 30 year old sustained this course of treatment, as I had quite a few extra spectators observing me.
While the cardioversion was a scary thought, it worked. My heart rate went right back to a normal rate. But as I soon would learn, stabilizing my heart rate was just the tip of the iceberg. There was clearly a bigger issue at work causing my heart rate to skyrocket in the first place.
Cardiologist and electrophysiologist appointments soon followed, as well as MRIs, x-rays and genetic testing. All the while, my heart rate would decide to jump into the 200s every couple of weeks, making for lots of visits to the ER. Eventually, the culprit was identified as a small patch of scar tissue that had settled on the bottom of my heart. I had three heart catheterizations, the first to find the scar tissue, the second and third to attempt to remove the scar tissue. This tissue was interfering with my normal rhythm.
Recovering after my 3rd Heart Procedure
While I don't fully know how the scar tissue ended up on my heart, my doctors (there were a lot of them!) theorized that at some point I had a bad infection, and it traveled to my heart, leaving scar tissue. I was blissfully unaware that this type of event could even happen from an infection. It certainly made me realize how important getting your heart checked is -- at any age!
Throughout this entire experience I learned how important heart health is and how interconnected your heart is to other parts of the body. Not only do I continue to get heart checkups with my cardiologist, but I exercise and eat well to keep my heart and body in the best shape possible. While my heart incident was somewhat unique and rare, it is a good reminder that even the healthiest person should get checked by a cardiologist regularly.
Happy and healthy again!
Heart issues can impact anyone, at any age. Be sure to know your risks of heart disease and take action by knowing the risk factors and keeping heart healthy!
Join Wink in supporting American Heart Month. For each bottle purchased throughout the month, $1 will be donated to Go Red For Women to help fight heart disease in women.