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There are more reasons than classic ‘cardiac risk factors’ for a heart attack. Here is one of them–

By Tracy Simons | Silver Cross Hospital

As 47 year-old Mary Pat Falloon was hiking with her girlfriends in the Arizona mountains, she noticed a heaviness sensation in her chest and down both her arms.

“I was living a healthy lifestyle – I exercised regularly and my weight, blood pressure and cholesterol were in normal ranges,” said Mary Pat Falloon, a resident of Orland Park. “However to be safe, I had a stress test with my extremely skilled cardiologist Dr. Kathleen Drinan, who determined that I had a blockage. Then I had a coronary angiogram that found a 95% blockage in my right coronary artery. I was treated with a coronary stent, and for several years been blessed with no further cardiac incidents.”

“Mary Pat had no significant traditional cardiac risk factors. She didn’t smoke, led a very healthy lifestyle, and had no family history of heart disease,” said Dr. Kathleen Drinan, board certified cardiologist, who is on the medical staff at Silver Cross Hospital.

However, Mary Pat’s history of breast cancer, which occurred over 20 years earlier, alerted Dr. Drinan to investigate further. “The fact that Mary Pat’s breast cancer was treated with radiation therapy put her at risk for the development of a coronary artery blockage,” said Dr. Drinan. “Mary Pat’s unusual occurrence is why patients and health care professionals must continue to educate themselves on the unique presentation of heart disease in women, so they can follow a different approach when evaluating women for the disease.”

Further, Dr. Drinan notes that younger women who had gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, pregnancy associated hypertension or chronic inflammatory disease need to be evaluated for their lifetime risk of heart disease. “For years these prior illnesses were not recognized as risks for the development of heart disease, and so many women were not diagnosed or treated with appropriate treatments,” said Dr. Drinan.

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