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Lesser-known symptoms of early heart-attack risk

August 12, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Heart attack in your thirties or forties? It can happen to anyone of at any time. Chest pain, arm pain and shortness of breath are the symptoms most people recognize. But there are five lesser-known symptoms you need to know to save your life.

Kim Strong, 42, is an outdoor sports fanatic. She fearlessly skis double-diamonds and surfs monster waves in Costa Rica.

That changed on July 11, 2012.

"I was watching television with my husband and I said, 'You know, I have a weird, um -- I feel like I flossed my teeth too hard,'" said Strong.

The next morning: "I have a back ache and I have a chest pain and I said, 'God, that jaw pain is killing me.' I said 'I think I am having a heart attack.' 'You're not having a heart attack,'" said Kim.

Then she collapsed in her bedroom closet. Her husband drove her to the hospital and in minutes her suspicion is confirmed: heart attack.

"I have a blood-clotting syndrome," said Kim.

Kim's blood-clotting disorder is genetic. But heart attacks strike people younger than 40 all the time.

"Heart disease hits very young people, very productive people, and that is a reason why it's very scary," said cardiologist Dr. Swathy Kolli.

Kolli says it's worse if you don't know all the signs. In women that includes nausea, vomiting, and shoulder, neck and jaw pain.

"These are the symptoms that people usually don't pay attention to," said Kolli.

Kim did, for one reason: a handout card at the annual American Red Cross Go Red for Women Luncheon she attended two months earlier.

"No other way to say it: If I hadn't gone, I would have pushed through it because I'm a pretty tough girl," said Kim.

Kim's extreme sporting days are over, but she says the tradeoff is worth it.

"I have to be here for my kids. I have to see what happens," said Kim.

The major risk factors for heart disease are: hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking and family history.

The lesser-known factors are obesity and inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.


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