Monday, December 29, 2008

Heart disease and women: Michelle Smietana

In March 2007, a screening test told Michelle Smietana of Gurnee her blood pressure and cholesterol levels were excellent. "I thought that's fantastic, no problems there," said Smietana, 35. Eight hours later, she was in a hospital emergency room with a heart attack. It began at dinner with a friend, when the computer specialist felt an achy pain at the right shoulder blade. By the time she got to her car, the feeling had crept up into her throat, where it settled in the soft spot under her chin. "At first I thought I'd hurt a muscle. Then I thought: 'Am I having an allergic reaction?' " Smietana said. "All the time, I felt, whatever this is, I really don't like it." Doctors at an urgent care center sent Smietana to Condell Medical Center after a test for a cardiac marker came back positive. There Smietana received aggressive treatment and ultimately discovered that a prolonged coronary artery spasm had interrupted blood flow through her narrower-than-usual arteries. "My first reaction was a weird feeling of shame, because I was only 33 and this wasn't supposed to be happening," Smietana said. "Then, I felt kind of guilty, because I'm a little heavy and a little underexercised." Moving on from the episode was terrifying, she said. "Because it came out of nowhere, you're not sure if it's going to come back again and if you'll survive the next time," she said. She credits three months of cardiac rehabilitation with defeating that fear and learning how to move again and take better care of herself. Today, Smietana tells women: "If your body tells you something doesn't feel right, listen to it and take it seriously. I did and I got lucky." - Chicago Tribune

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