From the fitness freak to a woman misdiagnosed with anxiety – meet survivors who are not at risk



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Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in the world. In the UK alone, it accounts for 65,700 deaths each year.

Coronary heart disease is where the arteries around the heart become narrowed by an accumulation of fatty material.

Most of these deaths are the result of heart attacks, when blood flow to the heart is blocked as a result of a blood clot, causing part of the heart muscle to die.

As the stories presented here reveal, the traditional image of a heart attack victim - a seriously overweight and inadequate middle-aged man - is dangerously outdated ... [File photo]

As the stories presented here reveal, the traditional image of a heart attack victim – a seriously overweight and inadequate middle-aged man – is dangerously outdated … [File photo]

This can lead to cardiac arrest, when the heart suddenly stops pumping blood through the body.

The good news is that more people are surviving these events.

"Seven in ten people now survive a heart attack," says Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, medical director of the British Heart Foundation. "But this disease is far from over."

Many people do not realize that they are at risk. As the stories presented here reveal, the traditional image of a heart attack victim – a seriously overweight and inadequate middle-aged man – is dangerously outdated …

Was it caused by emotional stress?

Rachel Boothroyd, 50, is a business performance coach. She lives with her nine-year-old son in north London.

I was 37 when I started to feel pain in my chest, arms and throat when I tried. I exercised regularly in the gym and the pain was so intense that it made me cry.

Rachel Boothroyd, 50, is a business performance coach. She lives with her nine-year-old son in North London.

Rachel Boothroyd, 50, is a business performance coach. She lives with her nine-year-old son in North London.

After a few months, I went to my doctor and although she said it was incredibly unlikely that I had a heart problem, the overwhelming symptoms of & elephant in my chest & # 39; which I described could have come straight from a heart attack book and referred me to a cardiologist.

At my appointment three weeks later, my ECG test (which checks the heart's electrical activity) suggested something was wrong, but the cardiologist told me that 30% of caucasian women give "false positives" so I would need to return angiogram – an X-ray used to check blood vessels.

Lying on the operating table with a tube in my heart, I remember singing to stay calm while my cardiologist told me that one of the major arteries was 99% blocked.

If I had had a heart attack – which could have happened at any time – it is quite certain that I would have died, since I had a kind of blockage known as "the widow maker" because of its position near the heart. .

When they inserted a stent (a tiny metal tube) to open the artery, it was as if the world had changed. I could breathe and the pain was gone. It was instantaneous. I was not overweight, did not smoke, and had no family history of heart disease – it just did not make sense.

But since then I have read that there is evidence that he may have an emotional link. Although I could handle the stress of my job at that time, as a senior partner at a city law firm, I was often the only woman in the room and could feel completely isolated.

Dr. Klaus Witte, a consultant cardiologist at the University of Leeds and Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, says: "The" widow maker "is a narrowing at the origin of one of the three major coronary arteries, which if blocked can cause a major attack heart disease that is associated with a high chance of dying.

"The links between stress and heart attacks are unclear, although stress usually leads to behaviors such as drinking, smoking, weight gain and lack of exercise, which are the risk factors for heart disease.

I was the fittest I've ever been

Cem Hilmi, 44, was training for the Great North Run and triathlon in London when he suffered a heart attack at age 36.

Cem Hilmi, 44, was training for the Great North Run and triathlon in London when he suffered a heart attack at age 36.

Cem Hilmi, 44, is the director of a recruiting business. He lives with his wife Rosa, 42, and her 14-year-old daughter at Palmers Green, London.

I was training for the Great North Run and the London Triathlon when I had my heart attack at age 36.

I woke up one Sunday morning feeling like I was falling with a cold. At noon, I felt a numbness in my arm, so my wife played 111 and they arranged for me to see a GP out of hours.

The doctor barely looked up before diagnosing a pulled muscle or nerve stuck and sending me home to take acetaminophen. My wife and I even went to the supermarket on the way back to get painkillers.

But after lunch, I collapsed on the floor with a tightness in my chest and started to panic while I could not get air in my lungs.

Rosa called 999, but when the paramedics arrived, I felt better. They did an electrocardiogram and nothing appeared, but to be safe, they took me to the hospital.

In A & E I entered again and this time the pain was much worse. I remember saying "good-bye" to Rosa because I thought I was going to die.

When I was connected to another ECG, I had another heart attack. An alarm sounded and at this moment I was very afraid. Suddenly there were paramedics in the back of the bed and they gave me morphine for the pain and then I was transferred to London at a cardiology hospital. On our way, Rosa collapsed and I remember consoling her. It seemed so surreal.

When I got to the heart hospital, I had a stent inserted into one of my arteries, which was 99% blocked.

The cause of my heart attack has never been confirmed. I had no family history, low cholesterol, regular blood pressure and I lead an active and healthy lifestyle.

Back home, I felt depressed and very tearful. I was afraid of falling asleep in case I had another heart attack.

My crying became so strong that my wife called the British Heart Foundation and I was put in touch with a cardiology nurse. With her guidance and the support of family and friends, I was able to overcome my emotions.

Six months after the day of my attack, I ran a half marathon and I actually got a personal record.

Dr. Witte says, "It's quite unusual to have a heart attack at this age, especially when you're so fit, but that can happen. It's likely that Cem's previous good health has helped him recover quickly and completely.

I thought it was bad indigestion

Vikie Shanks, 61, a mental health advocate, is a widow. She has seven children and lives in Kenilworth, Warwickshire.

Eighteen months before my heart attack, I began to feel eternally tired. I blamed stress.

My husband killed himself a decade earlier, leaving me with financial worries and dealing with our seven children, who have special needs.

Vikie Shanks, 61, began to feel infinitely tired eighteen months before her heart attack

Vikie Shanks, 61, began to feel infinitely tired eighteen months before her heart attack

I also thought maybe it was a result of menopause.

I went to my doctor and did tests, including an electrocardiogram, but everything was fine and since I was just an obese person and my general physical condition was good, I felt calm.

Then in September 2017, I began to suffer what I thought was bad indigestion, with burning pain in the chest, back and neck that would last five minutes or more, usually when I was sitting or lying down.

It continued for three weeks until one day, on a trip to London, the pain was so intense that I had to sit on the floor and take medicine for indigestion.

The next day, I saw my doctor, who did an ECG that showed signs that something was very wrong. He wanted to call an ambulance, but I insisted on driving to the hospital, never suspecting he was having a heart attack.

They admitted me to exams planned for the next day, but in an ambulance on the way to the heart unit of a different hospital, I had a cardiac arrest.

All I remember is getting in the ambulance after feeling the same burning sensation in my chest as I talked and laughed with the ambulance crew.

No one told me that I had cardiac arrest until two months later. One of my daughters said that I had flatlined and the ambulance crew had to perform CPR on me. She did not want to alarm me at the time telling me.

I had an emergency surgery to place two metal stents in the main left coronary artery, which was blocked.

My mother died of heart problems at age 47 and my brother died a few months ago of heart disease at age 62. My older brother died at age 54 when his heart gave way, so I'm sure the reason for my heart attack is genetic.

I went for cardio rehab and changed my diet, although I have put a couple of stones in since then. I have 5 and 7 inches and more than 13 stones. I'm working very hard to lose it.

Dr. Witte says, "The classic heart attack or angina pains are much less common in women and older people and a large number of people may have symptoms that they confuse with indigestion.

"Female hormones protect them against heart attacks, but that protection disappears after menopause, so they're as risky as men.

"Evidence shows that many women expect more than men to seek help because their symptoms are more vague. For this reason, women are twice as likely as men to die within a month after the heart attack.

'That's why it's important to assess whether there is constant pain or pain that occurs with exercise or emotional stress and is located in the chest.

"As for heart attacks with a family bond, there are many variables – such as cholesterol levels, blood pressure, personality and behavior, despite being overweight and not doing too much exercise."

I was 29 years old, but I felt I was dying.

Jemma White, 30, of Wallsend, north of Tyneside, started having pain waves in her left arm and thought it was angina

Jemma White, 30, of Wallsend, north of Tyneside, started having pain waves in her left arm and thought it was angina

Jemma White, 30, lives with her partner Ryan, 30, in Wallsend, north of Tyneside.

It began with waves of pain, like heavy pain, in my left arm, the pain radiating from the tip of my chin and my neck. I researched my symptoms and it sounded like angina.

After two months of that, in June of 2017 I went to see my doctor. She said that because I was only 29 years old, despite being overweight, it was very unlikely that it was angina and more likely because of anxiety, since I had had several miscarriages.

She heard my heart and said that everything seemed fine, so when the pain returned, I tried to push it away.

But as the weeks passed, the pain started in my chest and I could feel a sharp, penetrating grip.

One day, in August 2017, the pain became so strong that I flexed, holding my chest. I was with my mother, who even said, "It's like you're having a heart attack," but we laughed at that. As we walked home, I was sweating and clinging to the light poles.

Back home, I asked my partner Ryan to dial 999. The paramedics came, but they said it was anxiety. I went to sleep, but in the middle of the night the pain got so bad that it woke me up and I started to vomit, and Ryan called another ambulance.

By now I felt like I was being crushed. I could not lift my arm and I was afraid of dying. The ambulance staff did an ECG and told me that I was having a heart attack.

At the hospital, I had emergency surgery to place a stent on a coronary artery that was 94% blocked. I was the youngest in the ward. Everyone said it was unusual to see a woman my age there.

I now take ramipril, aspirin and a beta blocker to reduce the risk of another attack. I never got to the bottom of what caused this.

It may be genetic like my grandmother and her brothers died of heart problems. I would like more tests to find out, because I still get scared every time I feel a twinge and I'm already in the hospital a few times. The first time I was told it was the stent "getting settled". The second time, I was told it was anxiety.

I was also diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, which I suspect is also genetic, and with a thyroid problem. It's been hard to deal with, but I'm determined to eat healthier and get back on track.

Dr. Witte says: "The symptoms of Jemma are classic for a heart attack. Pain can occur in different parts of the body, because the nerves that supply different areas of the skin, for example, also attach to the heart.

"But the story of Jemma is an incredibly unusual scenario. One possibility is a problem with blood clotting as this may be associated with an increased risk of heart attacks and miscarriages.

"But a family history and being overweight – people who are overweight can often have impaired glucose metabolism, which increases the risk of heart attacks – may be factors."

"More young people are overweight, few practice regular exercise and most jobs are now sedentary. It is a perfect storm for higher rates of heart attacks in young people.

I was healthy for my age

Simon Jarvis, 61, a former police officer and military trainer and father of one, took the car to MOT and walked back to the house 15 minutes the morning of the heart attack.

Simon Jarvis, 61, a former police officer and military trainer and father of one, took the car to MOT and walked back to the house 15 minutes the morning of the heart attack.

Simon Jarvis, 61, a former police and military trainer and father of one, lives with partner Suzanne, 60, a travel journalist in Cheadle.

The morning of my heart attack in September 2015, I had taken the car to your MOT and returned home 15 minutes away.

I was 57 years old and had good health. I was active and although I probably drank more than the recommended amount of alcohol, our diet is pretty good.

I've been under a lot of stress thanks to some financial problems.

When I got home, I felt so bad that I needed to lie down.

Then I felt a strong pressure on my chest and pain like no other pain I had felt before.

I knew immediately that I was having a heart attack and Suzanne called 999.

I was taken to Wythenshawe Hospital, where I was examined in five minutes. Before I knew it, a stent was being inserted.

Having a heart attack to have the stent inserted took less than an hour.

The hospital told me that I had a blockage due to cholesterol, but they failed to detect any lasting damage. They said that I would probably feel better than I had for a while – and that was true.

Four years later, I still take bisoprolol, ramipril, aspirin and statins to help lower blood pressure and prevent another seizure. I went to cardio fitness classes at the hospital once a week for ten weeks and followed the exercise regimen at home.

But now I really went the other way, gaining a lot of weight. I also have arthritis, which means I'm less able to exercise.

Dr. Witte says: "If someone has a sedentary job and does not try very hard, stressful periods may be the only time their heart is really pushed – so this may be the only trigger for the symptoms.

'Physical stress makes the heart beat stronger and faster and needs more oxygen.

Although Simon says he was reasonably healthy, if you are overweight or overweight and do not exercise enough, your body is less effective at metabolizing glucose and fat and this can lead to increased deposits in the arteries, causing blockages. & # 39;

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