I went for my yearly checkup last July and everything was great. So when in early October I had two episodes of a little tightness in my chest that radiated around my ribcage to my back I said, "Oh, it's nothing. It'll go away," and it did after a minute or so. The second time I actually went home to check how tight I had my bra on and didn't think of it again … until it happened a third time, right before Halloween.
I was out buying a birthday present for a friend when suddenly I felt a very strong pressure on my chest. A long time ago I had heard an interview with a woman describing her heart attack symptoms, and she said it felt like an elephant was pressing on her chest. I remembered that and knew I probably shouldn't just have a glass of water and lay down, which is what I might have done if I was home. The boutique manager, who I've known for a long time, took one look at my face and said, "Susan, are you okay? You know what, my car's right outside. Why don't I drive you to St. Francis."
My husband's amazing cardiologist met me at the ER and had them run an EKG, then got right on the phone with my regular doctor. This EKG matched up with the one from my yearly checkup — there was no change. But my symptoms were so significant, he wanted me to have a . Everyone thought they were going to do the scan and it would show nothing because I had such a pristine health record. What the results actually revealed was that I had a 90% blockage in one of my main arteries and that a smaller artery was 75% blocked.
I was surprised to learn that an EKG does not always tell the whole story. It will show if you're having distress signals at the time it's being given, but it won't necessarily show what's causing them. "Usually we will tell a patient with heart disease to change their diet and get more exercise to lower their cholesterol," my doctor told me, "but this is already how you live." My blockages were made of mostly calcium, not cholesterol, and that was due to DNA: My father also had calcium buildup which caused him to have a heart attack at 49.
If you have a family history of heart disease related to calcium buildup — even if you don't have symptoms of heart disease — talk to your doctor. A number of my friends have had a . And do everything you can to keep your heart as healthy as possible. That may be the reason this didn't happen sooner and I didn't suffer damage after. "You have the heart of a 20-year-old," my doctor told me following the procedure in which he put a stent in each of my blocked arteries. "It is still strong."