Know your body. Push for answers. Educate yourself.
Those are the three things about heart disease Kathryn Hass wants women to know. Three and a half years ago she was diagnosed with a rare heart disease – but not until after doing a lot of pushing for herself.
“Don’t be shamed into silence,” she said.
Hass, of Wolf Lake, said when she started to have issues with her heart, she made multiple trips to doctors, looking for what was wrong. She said she got the feeling that doctors and nurses thought it was all in her head and she was wasting their time because all the tests were coming back negative.
She didn’t fit the typical profile for heart disease – obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoker – so doctors didn’t take her description of symptoms too seriously.
After a trip to Mayo Clinic though, she finally got a diagnosis – coronary vessel spasm, or prinzmetal angina. Because she was going through menopause, her estrogen level was so low it was causing her heart problems.
Once she got her diagnosis and started doing some research, she found that heart disease in women was much more common than she realized.
“You don’t pay attention until it hits you,” she said.
She said that if she hadn’t pushed for answers and a diagnosis, she’d likely be dead by now. Instead, she’s on medication for her heart and living a healthy, active life.
While the typical symptoms include pain in the left arm, chest or jaw, Hass said that for women it can be very different. Instead, heart disease can present in back pain, nausea, overly fatigued, and she’s even met a lady who was diagnosed from a fever.
“Push for answers,” she said. “That’s what I did for four and a half months.”
She said that there is so much emphasis put on cancer awareness that sometimes heart disease awareness gets overlooked. But, she said, statistics say that more women die of heart disease than all forms of cancer.
“We don’t pay attention to our bodies. We’re so busy with family and jobs,” Hass said, adding that women’s focus many times is on other things.
It’s time to start paying attention though.
Get involved, help celebrate
On Feb. 6, everyone is encouraged to wear red in support of Go Red for Women. Also that day, Hass and others working to bring awareness of heart health to the Detroit Lakes area will be at Becker Pet and Garden doing a live remote for the radio.
They are bringing a “Life is” board for women with heart disease to take their pictures in front of. There will be calendars to be given out and Little Red Dress pins.
Then on Feb. 7, Hass, along with her co-organizer Amber Tougas, Detroit Lakes, has planned a cross-country ski event – Heart on the Hill – at Detroit Mountain.
The event is free, but a $10 donation for the American Heart Association is encouraged. It is from 1 to 4 p.m.
If there isn’t enough snow to cross-country ski that day, it will become a winter walk.
“We’ve walked it and it’s a very nice path,” Hass said.
She added that they are encouraging people to simply come out to Detroit Mountain that day, say hi and show their support.
“One in three women dies of heart disease. Younger women are dying of heart disease, and the numbers aren’t going down,” she said.
For more information on heart disease, go to Goredforwomen.org. There are testimonials, exercise tips, recipes and more on the site.
Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.