MANHASSET, NY (CBS New York) – On Friday, women across the country are wearing red to draw attention to a deadly disease – cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death among women.
CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff spoke with a young mother who never imagined she was in danger.
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“Like an elephant sat on my chest,” Cassidy Hayes of Garden City said.
Hayes was expecting a baby and remembers struggling to breathe. Doctors brushed it off as a symptom of pregnancy.
“They were looking at me and saying, you’re young, you’re healthy, welcome to the pregnancy,” Hayes said.
After giving birth, she researched her symptoms online and discovered that she was unhealthy – her heart muscle was shutting down.
“The cardiologist diagnosed me with postpartum cardiomyopathy. It’s basically congestive heart failure,” she said.
Without a family history, she could have died if she had not been treated.
“When the heart muscle is so weak, it’s at risk for what’s called sudden cardiac death,” said Dr. Evelina Grayver, of Northwell’s Katz Institute for Women’s Health.
Grayver says the case is rare, but underlines the warning to women on this National Day to wear red – be aware of the warning signs of cardiovascular disease, responsible for the death of one in three women.
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The symptoms of women are different from those of men.
“Breathlessness should never be pawned off as nothing or anxiety or anything else…Women may experience shortness of breath, palpitations, lightheadedness, lightheadedness, and a significant amount of fatigue,” a said Grayver.
According to the American Heart Association, most deaths from heart disease and stroke are preventable. However, cardiovascular disease continues to be the greatest threat to women’s health.
Stony Brook Heart Institute doctors say prevention starts early.
“Plaque buildup in blood vessels begins in your late teens to early twenties, so eat healthy, avoid foods high in saturated fat, processed foods,” says cardiologist Dr. Noelle Mann , from North Suffolk Cardiology.
A woman’s heart is actually different from a man’s in that it can become thicker and less flexible.
With medication and regular cardio workouts, Hayes leads a heart-healthy lifestyle. Her baby is now 11 years old.
“Listen to your body,” she says. “You have to put your own health first in order to be there for your children later.”
Her case reminds us to never take our health for granted and, when something goes wrong, to take action.
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