Tag Archives: heart disease in women

Heart Disease in Women: A Soap Star’s Real-Life Scare

She’s one of the most famous soap opera stars of all time, starring on All My Children for decades. This week, Susan Lucci opened up about a real-life heart scare she had recently. The actress nearly died from a heart attack. With heart disease being the #1 killer of women, her story has an important lesson about listening to your symptoms and seeing your doctor. Here is an interview from NBC Nightly News.

According to William D. Brearley, Jr., MD, of Lexington Cardiology, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice, heart attack symptoms in women can be atypical. Chest discomfort is most frequent, however other less recognized symptoms include back pain, fatigue, breathlessness and arm or joint pain. Women do not always present with the classic feeling of the “elephant on your chest,” which is more common in men. Misdiagnosing these symptoms as being caused by stress or a hectic schedule can be deadly.

Dr. William Brearley

“I’ve heard several women say, ‘I never thought I’d have a heart attack,’” Dr. Brearley added. “No one thinks it’s going to happen to them. Unfortunately, that’s not true. More than 200,000 women in our country die each year from heart attacks.”

Women should have an annual physical with a blood pressure check and lipid panel. Symptoms and cardiovascular risk factors should also be reviewed.

A lipid panel is the measurement of different components of cholesterol in your blood. Cholesterol is a fat-like substance in your bloodstream. There are two types: LDL is known as “bad” cholesterol because it contributes to plaque formation in arterial walls. This plaque can narrow your arteries or rupture, causing a heart attack. HDL is called “good” cholesterol because it carries cholesterol to your liver, where it’s removed from your body.

There are different target levels of LDL cholesterol, depending on risk factors and existing conditions such as diabetes or known coronary artery disease. In low risk patients, LDL should be less than 160 mg/dL. HDL should be greater than 40 mg/dL, and triglycerides should be less than 150 mg/dL. Exercising and limiting saturated fats in your diet helps to lower your cholesterol.

Don’t ignore symptoms; talk to your doctor. Exercise regularly, don’t smoke, and eat nutritious foods. Be a positive example to others. Heart disease risk factors including diabetes and obesity rates are climbing in our community, in adults and in children. Let’s work on keeping our hearts healthy.

Lexington Medial Center wants you to “Just Say Know” to heart disease. Visit LexMed.com/Know to test your heart health knowledge with a quiz.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel: Learning from Heart Disease

Parris McBride recalls the day she thought she was going to die.

“All I saw were the white lights of the cars ahead of us turning into one big light. And then it got darker – as if the lights were closing into a tunnel.”

Parris was in the passenger seat with her frantic sister and teenage daughter racing to Lexington Medical Center. She was cold, clammy, weak and nearly unconscious.

With severe chest pains and a terrible headache, the Batesburg mother was having a serious cardiac event. And she was only 41 years old. It was December 9, 2014.

Parrisi McBride

“I didn’t want to die. I have kids and I need to take care of them.”

Inside Lexington Medical Center, tests revealed severe blockages in her arteries. Parris needed open heart surgery to survive.

It was the pivotal moment for heart problems that began months before.

In October, Parris started having back, shoulder and neck pain – and, one night while working in the kitchen – another weird feeling.

“I thought, ‘My goodness, I’m having some bad indigestion.’” She chewed nearly a whole bottle of Tums® and it didn’t go away.

At first, she thought she was tired and stressed. Both of her parents had died recently, and she was a busy single mom of two daughters with a job as a salon manager.

But with a history of heart disease in her family – including a father having heart surgery in his ‘30s and a grandfather with a heart attack in his ‘50s, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and a smoking habit, she went to Urgent Care. Tests revealed she had suffered a heart attack. She had two stents placed.

Soon, the symptoms came back.

“I couldn’t even walk up a flight of steps without not being able to breathe,” she said. “Even talking on the phone would make me out of breath.”

The chest pain continued – and got so bad that Parris was vomiting, too.

“It was like someone was stabbing a knife right between my heart and my esophagus,” she said. “It didn’t feel like an elephant on my chest, but it was the worst pain you could ever describe.”

It all led up to the day the symptoms became unbearable and her sister had to rush her to the hospital, where Parris learned that more arteries were blocked and she would need open heart surgery. Surgeons also needed to fix a blockage in her carotid artery.

“At first, I had a lot of fear and anxiety. I had some anger. But I also had hope that everything would go away and I’d be better.”

Stories of women such as Parris who have suffered from heart disease are a primary reason that Lexington Medical Center is focusing on educating women about their hearts in 2015.

Parris attended cardiac rehabilitation at Lexington Medical Center Lexington. She’s recovering from her bypass surgery and getting stronger every day.

For women like her, she has advice. “Be aware of what’s around you to be healthy. You can say every day that you’re going to quit smoking or eat right – but you have to commit to it.”

She also turns to her faith. Her late father was a pastor at Saxe Gotha Presbyterian Church in Lexington, where Parris grew up, graduating from Lexington High School.

“You ask yourself, ‘Why me, God? Why did you put this in my life?’ And for the first time in my life, I can finally say that I know why this experience has happened. It’s my calling to go around and make women more aware about heart health.”

She adds that her 8-year-old daughter asked her if what she had was contagious. She told her “No,” but that it can be hereditary. So, she’s working to get her family on a healthy path, too.

“I have two beautiful children. This is my third chance at life. I want to do it right this time.”

On the Road Again

Lexington Medical Center is pleased to present a new blog series called “Meet the Patients.” We share the stories of some of the members of our community that we have the privilege of treating in our hospital network.

Diane McNinch was born with a genetic heart condition called Long QT Syndrome. That’s where the muscle cells of the heart take an abnormally long tie to “recharge.” Untreated, LQTS can increase the risk for a life-threatening arrhythmia. Doctors with Lexington Cardiology, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice, implanted a defibrillator in Diane’s side to help keep her heart in a healthy rhythm.

The technology has allowed her to continue her passion for running. She shares her story below.

Many people have no symptoms, no family history of heart problems and may never know they have the condition. Others may have a family history of sudden cardiac death or worrisome symptoms. Symptoms can include palpitations, lightheadedness, loss of consciousness, seizures or even cardiac arrest. People with symptoms should see their doctor.

Diane is more than 1,200 women running in the Lexington Medical Center Heart and Sole Women’s Five Miler in Columbia tomorrow. You can still register. Visit HeartAndSoleRun.com.

LMCLexingtonCardiology.com