Matters of the heart- Part II

Posted: 6:22 PM EST Feb 13, 2014   Updated: 6:25 PM EST Feb 14, 2014
Matters of the heart- Part II

Heart disease is the number one killer of women, but many people think of it as only a man's disease.

In the summer of 2012, at the age of 52, Ann Coolidge started gaining weight, and not being able to breathe very well. "I was like 'Oh I'm fine, oh I'm fine, I'm just getting heavy.'" she said.

Coolidge ignored the symptoms for months, until December when she went into heart failure. Her heart was enlarged and not pumping blood properly.

Coolidge is one of an estimated almost 43-million women with heart disease.

"Heart disease was known to be a man's disease. It's something that happens in men, after the age of 55," explained Dr. Dwithiya Thomas, a cardiologist with St. Luke's University Hospital and Health Network, of the misconception about heart disease.

Dr. Thomas said, "Our goal is to make sure everybody is aware heart disease is very prevalent in women, almost equivalent to heart disease in men, and we have to be more cognizant and pick up on these women."

Dr. Thomas said men and women have the same risk factors: poor eating and exercise habits, smoking, high blood pressure, and family history. The symptoms, although never text book, are also the same, but how women react is different.

"We sometimes downplay our symptoms to the point where we say this is not the right time to pay attention to this, this is just stress or anxiety, but it ends up being something pretty major," explained Dr. Thomas.

After Coolidge's heart failure, she had the option between getting healthy or having a pacemaker put in. "That was an option, but an option I didn't want to have so I sat down with the dietician, went over my whole regimen, the dos and don'ts," she said.

Motivated by her two kids and three grandkids, Coolidge has lost over 50 pounds, gotten her health back on track, and learned a valuable lesson. "As women we do for others so much. I know I always put myself lower on my list where now I have to keep Ann up here and I have to be first," she said.

A lesson we can all learn from, especially when it comes to our health.