If she had waited just one week, she may have had a heart attack in Bulgaria, a trip that had been previously planned. Susan Lucci recalled how lucky she was shortly after getting two stents placed for heart blockages. What was unique about her situation is she is female and an actress. She is able to use her fame to promote awareness of heart disease, especially in women, on major news networks.
At 71, thin and in excellent health, Susan Lucci does not fit the profile of the typical heart patient. She assumed she had her mother’s genes since mom lived to be 101. She exercises daily, generally doing Pilates. But she almost made a fatal mistake by ignoring the warning signs of a heart attack. They are easy to ignore.
Is It Indigestion?
Susan Lucci did what most people do when she first had symptoms weeks before. She shrugged it off. In her case, she blamed her chest discomfort on a bad fitting bra. No one wants to end up in the emergency room just to be told that they have gas or a bad fitting bra instead of a heart attack. Not that anyone wants a heart attack. But most would rather be saved from the embarrassment of going through that ordeal to find out. Ms. Lucci had typical symptoms of chest pain that she described as “an elephant sitting on my chest.” Men will say that same statement. But many times, women will have a very different experience that does not appear to be a heart attack.
Women Have Different Signs
Most people are familiar with the typical signs of a heart attack. These signs are almost always experienced by men. They include chest pain or a feeling of indigestion, shortness of breath, breaking out in a sweat, and/or jaw pain that may move down the arm (not necessarily in this order). Women may not have chest pain at all, even though Ms. Lucci did. Women may only have shortness of breath or fatigue without chest pain. These can be vague symptoms caused by a multitude of diseases. Even health care providers do not always pick up on the subtleties and blame other diseases, such as lung disorders.
How Will I Know?
It is difficult to know when to call 911. Here is one way that may help (always talk to a health care professional if unsure):
- Did any of the signs occur during exertion?
- Did they occur more than once?
- Did they go away with rest?
Answering “yes” to the statements is a strong indicator that you need to be seen.
No, Breast Cancer is Not the Leading Cause of Death
A huge misconception among women is that their primary health enemy is breast cancer. Breast cancer does cause deaths and it is scary. It feels like the mysterious disease that haunts your every waking hour. But, in realty, your biggest enemy is heart disease. It is the number one killer of both men and women worldwide. One in three women will die from cardiovascular disease.
What’s a Woman to Do?
What’s the answer when someone like Susan Lucci, the picture of health and fitness, develops heart disease? You may think, what’s the point in exercising, weight control and smoking cessation? Well, a lot. First of all, Ms. Lucci’s father had a heart attack at age 49. Luckily, he lived into his 80s. That means she inherited his genetic base for heart disease. There’s nothing you can do about your genetics (not at this writing). However, it is believed by most health care providers that you will benefit from taking care of yourself even if you have lousy genes. So yes, it does help you to stay healthy. Who knows? Ms. Lucci’s good health may have bought her some time. She didn’t have a heart event until she was 71, 22 years after her father did.
“Raising Awareness About Women’s Health is in WNBA’s DNA.” American Heart Association News. September 6, 2018. https://www.heart.org/en/news/2018/09/05/raising-awareness-about-womens-health-is-in-wnbas-dna
“Susan Lucci Thriving Since Getting 2 Stents in Heart; Recognizing Warning Signs Avoided Heart Attack.” American Heart Association News. February 6, 2019. https://www.heart.org/en/news/2019/02/06/susan-lucci-thriving-since-getting-2-stents-in-heart-recognizing-warning-signs-avoided-heart-attack