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Published on December 04, 2020

Jessica Armstrong

Heart Attack Signs Shouldn’t Be Ignored

It was a Wednesday morning, and Jessica Armstrong was bustling around her home getting ready for work.

At one point, she went back into her bedroom and saw the duvet on the bed was crooked. When she bent over to straighten the blanket, pressure filled her chest and upper back.

Armstrong mentioned her discomfort to her husband, describing the pain as an elephant sitting on her chest. He gently recommended going to the hospital. Not wanting to be a bother, she waved away his concerns with those risky words, “I’m fine.”

A half hour after he left for work, Armstrong went into the bathroom for one final look into the mirror. Her mind went to her children and grandchildren; she decided to go to the emergency room just to be safe.

Treating a Heart Attack

“I had a mild heart attack,” said Armstrong.

It was at this time she contacted her husband to explain the day’s change of plans: treating a heart attack.

The emergency team at Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center admitted her for the night with plans to have a stress test the next morning. Before that happened, her chest pain returned so they transported her to the Avera Heart Hospital via ambulance.

An angiogram revealed a blockage in her right coronary artery. During an angiogram, a contrast agent (iodine dye) is introduced into the patient’s system, which allows the physician to observe any abnormalities captured on the X-ray. Doctors immediately placed a stent inside the artery to relieve the blockage and promote blood flow.

“They were so fabulous and caring, the team who treated me,” said Armstrong. “Every day, they see worried people and they handle each person with dignity.”

While Armstrong never showed signs of heart problems, the risk runs in her family. Her mother worked at managing high blood pressure and thyroid disease all her life. Armstrong’s mother passed away at an early age.

Today, she prioritizes her health during a busy day by eating healthier and walking her eager yellow Labradors. The thought that a health emergency could happen to even her is always in the back of her mind.

“It was a lesson to care for and listen to my body,” Armstrong said. “I have a lot of life left to live, and I am taking time to enjoy every moment now.”

Do You Know the Warning Signs of a Heart Attack?

You don’t have to have all the symptoms for it to be a heart attack. Often heart attack symptoms for women won’t always include heart pain. Armstrong only experienced pain in her chest and upper back; she thought she would have had more symptoms.

Common Heart Attack Symptoms:

  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Jaw and/or back pain
  • Arm and/or shoulder pain
  • Sweatiness
  • Nausea
  • Feeling weak, light-headed or faint
  • Shortness of breath

“If something doesn’t feel right, get it checked out,” said Armstrong. “God gave us these gut feelings for a reason: for your protection.”

If you want more information about your risk for heart attack, start by talking with your primary care provider or schedule an appointment with a heart specialist.

- Photo courtesy of Kate Luecke Photography

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