February is American Heart Month. The CDC says heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States, and it can often go undiagnosed.
The disease kills about one in five women and about one in four men, according to the CDC.
“I had horrible chest pains. When I got up at night to go to the bathroom, I could barely get there because I couldn’t catch my breath,” Cassidy Hayes said.
Hayes said she felt something was wrong in the later stages of her pregnancy. The then 31-year-old woman repeatedly complained to her OBGYN, but says she was diagnosed with anxiety.
Shortly after the birth of her son Walker, she woke up struggling to breathe and Googled her symptoms.
“Postpartum cardio myopathy comes up,” Hayes said.
Hayes went to see a cardiologist for a second opinion and was told she was suffering from heart failure.
“We hear all the time, especially women, ‘Listen to your body. You’re your best health care advocate,’ but that’s really what it’s all about,” Hayes said.
“Everyone should be their own advocate. We should listen to our bodies. We shouldn’t except that all is well,” said Dr Jake Deutsch. “Asking questions or pushing a topic and expecting more is really the responsibility of each, because no one else will do it for you.”
The doctor encourages patients to delve deeply into preventive tests. He owns a men’s health clinic concierge in the West Village.
“Number one, know what your risk is,” Deutsch said. “Second, get real tests that are going to be useful.”
There are several risk factors for heart disease and experts say it’s important to measure fat around vital organs, waist circumference and blood pressure, which are more commonly taken by primary care doctors.
Hayes said it’s important to advocate for more testing when people think something is wrong. Due to Hayes’ persistence and insistence on listening to herself and taking more tests, she was able to add herself to her family. She now has two children and she is here to raise them.
“[I’m] grateful. I consider myself one of the lucky ones,” Hayes said.
Concierge medicine can be expensive with a basic model without insurance. The American Heart Association also offers Resources for people, such as advice on healthy eating and exercise, and can connect people with local doctors.
The organization emphasizes communication between a patient and doctor to ensure there is clarity after the patient has left an appointment.