On this, the final day of American Heart Month, the heart is very much on my mind. In the days leading up to and following Valentine’s Day, my heart was trying to tell me something, but I either didn’t understand the language it was speaking or had it on mute.
Not many people correctly interpret the warning signs when a woman is having a cardiac event. It can present very differently for women compared to men.
Here’s what happened to me and how I finally got the message my heart was sending me:
I landed in Florida on Valentine’s Day. A group of us had planned a trip to visit a friend, rent a house, and play copious (perhaps inadvisable) amounts of beach volleyball. We had our first session of games the evening we all landed. I felt like I was getting winded more easily than I’m used to, but I chalked that up to playing outside after playing indoors for so long.
Later, at dinner, I had a bit of an upset stomach. Not quite nauseas, but odd and uneasy. I knew I was hungry, but I didn’t have much of an appetite. Nothing on the menu (even things I usually like) looked appetizing. I thought I was just being a New York snob, especially when my salad came and the pears were canned. My heart sank. I almost never have a salad as a meal, but it was the only thing I thought I could make myself eat. I also almost never lose my appetite.
I had insomnia that night and every night after that. I thought maybe it was just being in a new place. I do have insomnia periodically.
The next day I woke up and my neck was a bit sore. I remember asking about getting massages. I assumed I’d given myself whiplash diving for a ball.
I played beach volleyball in the morning, and I played in the evening. At dinner I got a really bad headache, and I noticed that my chest hurt a bit when I bent over to tie my shoes. When I got back to my bedroom, I noticed my chest hurt more when I lay down.
Sometimes my headaches develop into migraines if I don’t address them soon enough. Not wanting to get a migraine, I took something for the headache, and it helped with the chest pain as well. My chest hurt a little bit when I…