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Heart Attacks Under 40

5:26 PM, Mar 3, 2010   |    comments
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ROCKVILLE, Md. (WUSA) -- Andrea Wongsam vividly remembers the burning sensation that just wouldn't go away.

"I was vomiting, tired, and I had this burning in my chest, something similar to heartburn,"explains Wongsam.

At 35-years-old and 13 weeks into her pregnancy, what felt like extreme heartburn was the first sign Andrea was having a heart attack.

Andrea explains, "My left arm lost functionality, and I became incredibly hot, like nothing I did would help me get cool."

Andrea had a preexisting condition which makes her body produce excessive platelets, setting the stage for blood clots. However, even with that, she admits, she dismissed her symptoms as morning sickness and never imagined the worst could happen.

Andrea was devastated by what doctors told her next.

"By the time it was all over, I had to be air lifted and unfortunately, I ended up losing the baby," she explains.

Dr. Virginia Colliver of Maryland Heart, P.C. says Andrea is not alone. Many women under forty,"...don't believe they have heart disease until the symptoms really become very severe," she says.

Dr. Colliver explains, "If we can prevent the heart attack or prevent the bypass that some people may be destined to have in their sixties, we have to start early in their forties, in their thirties, it's never too early to start."

The American Heart Association says one in three women die of cardiovascular disease, and ninety percent of women have one or more risk factors already.

"The risk factors include heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, family history and level of physical activity," Dr. Colliver explains.

Also, heart attack symptoms in women are more atypical than the tell-tale chest pain many men experience.

Symptoms in women include indigestion or burning, tightness and pain in the jaw or arm, shortness of breath or extreme fatigue.

Today, Andrea knows her HDL and LDL levels, the good and bad cholesterol in her blood stream. She also gets her heart pumping with exercise and eats right.

As a result of her heart attack, Andrea may no longer be able to have children, but she hopes her story inspires other women not to doubt their symptoms and get help.

Andrea says,"I didn't listen to my body, which I should have, and the consequences were long lasting."

See more resources, including important check up information for women and learn more about the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women Campaign.

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