Wear Red Day at Florence hospitals draws attention to women’s heart attack risks

February 3, 2019

FLORENCE, S.C. – February is American Heart Month, and Carolinas Hospital System and McLeod Regional Medical Center both celebrated the first day of February as National Wear Red Day, which is part of the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women movement.

Mirial “Millie” Gainer was at Carolinas Hospital for rehab and took the time to visit the booth set up in the hospital atrium for National Wear Red Day.

Doctors and staff also stopped by for a photo in the atrium.

Gainer had her first heart attack when she was in her 30s. She had a second one at 69 while in the hospital being treated for other problems.

With the first one, Gainer said, she had the classic symptom – a crushing feeling in her heart, left arm pain and jaw pain.

“But you don’t always have these wonderful classic symptoms,” she said.

The second one, she said, felt like she had the world’s worst heartburn, and she was already taking the maximum dosage of medication for that problem.

“I had a stabbing pain under my shoulder blade, too” she said.

She said an electrocardiogram (ECG) didn’t show anything was wrong.

“I just felt something was wrong and insisted on being checked out,” she said. She said there was indigestion, a sense of foreboding, and something she couldn’t “put her finger on.”

She was right.

“We are strong; we have babies,” she said. “We take an aspirin and think we will be fine.”

Gainer said she ran her first marathon at the age of 60 and her second at 61.

“Having a heart attack in my 60s was kind of a surprise,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how healthy you think you are, go get checked out if you think something is wrong.”

She said it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Cardiovascular disease kills about one woman every 80 seconds, according to the American Heart Association.

The message for women on Friday was it can happen to them; it can happen to anyone. Be aware of what your body is telling you. To help with that, both Carolinas and McLeod offered free blood pressure checks, heart-risk assessments and heart-healthy education.

McLeod held a luncheon with Dr. Nicolette B. Naso, a McLeod cardiologist, speaking on the signs, symptoms and causes of heart attacks in women.

Naso has more than 20 years of experience in her field and was selected one of America’s Top Cardiologists for 2015 by Consumers’ Research Council of America.

Naso said that according to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, killing more women than all forms of cancer combined. She said 80 percent of cardiac events in women are preventable.

Some of the risk factors include advancing age, family history, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and smoking. She said women can’t change their age or their family history, but they can do something to prevent the other risk factors through diet, exercise and not smoking.

Some heart attacks come on suddenly while others start slowly.

Signs of a heart attack, according to the American Heart Association, are uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest lasting more than a few minutes; pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach; shortness of breath with or without chest pain. Other signs are a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness. The most common sign is chest pain.

Naso said it is important to know your numbers: total cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol; blood pressure, blood sugar and body mass index (BMI).

Naso also said 55,000 more women die of strokes than men.

The signs of a stroke are facial drooping, arm weakness and speech difficulty.

“If you think you are having a heart attack or a stroke, call 911,” she said.

She said the worst thing you can do is to drive yourself to the doctor’s office or the hospital.

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