Winter 2004
Living to Be 100!

Stratford resident
Alice Munley

That’s the goal of this Stratford woman,who has learned to pay attention to her symptoms.

Alice Munley’s mother lived to the grand old age of 100. So Alice naturally thought of herself as a woman without health problems. She and her husband, Larry, were both athletic and physically active. They walked for 45 minutes every day, rain or shine.

But Alice began to find that she couldn’t walk that long. "And I had a burning feeling in my throat," she adds, touching the notch in the center of her collarbone. "So I started researching indigestion and heartburn."

Then other things began happening to her. "Our home has two flights of stairs," says Alice. "I got so I had to stop on the landing to catch my breath.

One night in early 2003, she had a strange feeling. "I can only call it discomfort," she explains. "It went across the chest and into both armpits. For a minute, I was frightened, but it went away. I thought it couldn’t be anything serious, and I didn’t want to worry Larry, so I didn’t say anything."

A couple of months went by with no new symptoms. Then, one morning in April 2003, Larry was downstairs in the kitchen and Alice was upstairs brushing her teeth when that strange discomfort across her chest came back. It was not particularly alarming at first, but this time it didn’t go away. Alice realized that something was happening to her, and she needed help. She called for Larry."I hate to admit it," she told him, "but I might be having a heart attack."

Alice goes three times
a week to the Heart Institute’s "Healthy Hearts" outpatient cardiac rehabilitation program for monitored exercise and education.

Larry Munley didn’t hesitate for a second. He got Alice down the stairs and into the car and drove her to Bridgeport Hospital. The only thing they did wrong, as he and Alice now admit, was in not calling an ambulance so Alice could have had expert care on her way to the hospital.

When they reached the Emergency Department at Bridgeport Hospital, Alice described the strange feeling her chest. Within minutes, experts in The Chest Pain Center performed an electrocardiogram, which told them that Alice was having a massive heart attack.

And to think that a short time earlier, all she was feeling was a little chest discomfort!

Alice, like many women, had not been taught that a woman’s heart attack symptoms may be quite different from the classic "Hollywood heart attack." That’s the sudden, crushing chest pain, sometimes radiating down the left arm, that movies and TV portray when the heroine’s father/brother/husband has a heart attack.

A Woman’s Heart Attack Symptoms
Women are far more likely than men to experience something called prodromal symptoms, and they are likely to have these symptoms for weeks, months, sometimes even years, before realizing that something is happening to them.

"A recent study found that many women experience—and ignore—their pre–heart attack symptoms for six months to two years before having an actual heart attack," says Bridgeport Hospital–affiliated cardiologist Adolfo Luciano, MD.

Thinking back over the weeks before a full-fledged heart attack, the women in the study realized that they had been feeling "off" for quite a while. They experienced feelings that were not normal for them—prodromal feelings— such as:

  Shortness of breath Vision problems
  Unusual weakness Anxiousness
  Fatigue "Indigestion"
  Sleep disturbances Vague feelings of discomfort
  Chest discomfort or pain—often fleeting "A change in thinking patterns"
African-American women in particular were also likely to list—
  Headaches Appetite changes
  Aching arms    
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