Survivor Takes Health to Heart

At 45-years old, Rhonda Braun thought she was the picture of health. That is, until early June.

Rhonda says she started having shortness of breath and indigestion. She chalked it up to needing to lose a few pounds or being out of shape. When it didn't go away in a few days, she went to the doctor. Tests checked out fine, but when the symptoms came back the next day, Rhonda was rushed to the Cardiac Catherization Lab where she received a shock. Doctors told her they found a 99-percent blockage in one of her arteries and if she hadn't come in she would have had a heart attack.

Rhonda had acute coronary syndrome. Dr. Kristen Franklin, a cardiologist with the Cotton-O'Neil Heart Center, says it's a term recently coined for what's basically a heart attack before it happens. Franklin says it's usually a plaque that has ruptured within one of the coronary arteries and caused a blood clot to form over a plaque.

Franklin says the problem is many people ignore symptoms because they may be vague like a chest pressure or shortness of breathe. She says the rule of thumb is if it's unusual for you, get it checked out. Franklin says many people are afraid to go to the emergency room only to find out nothing is wrong, but she says not doing so could be a disservice. She says, once a heart attack has caused muscle damage, it's hard, even with medications, to get the heart function back.

Rhonda can count herself among the lucky ones. "I thank God every day that I'm here and alive and [with] no heart damage," she says. "Listen to your body, listen to your symptoms, and don’t ignore [them]."

You can take time for your heart at the annual Go Red for Women Luncheon. It's from 11AM until 1:30PM Friday, December 1st, at the Ramada Inn Downtown.

Contact the American Heart Association for tickets at 228-3435.

You can also learn more about the symptoms of and risk factors for heart disease from the American Heart Association's web site, www.americanheart.org.


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