Hudson Valley Parent

HVP September 2017

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24 Hudson Valley Parent n September 2017 By JOAN REID W hat would you consider the greatest threat to your health? Only 1 in 5 American women would answer that question thinking heart disease is their greatest health risk, despite the fact that it is the number 1 killer of women. Many women don't even know the symptoms of a heart attack. A mother's journey with CHF Katie O'Keeffe was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) when she was only 36. Ten years later, she now lives in Poughkeepsie with her three children and reflects on her heart condition and her journey over the past 20 years. O'Keeffe's journey began in her youth when she was told she had blood leaking back into her atrium chamber (mitral valve prolapse). "I had chest pains when I was in my early 20's just out of college and working in New York City," she says. "But I pushed myself working and within 4 years my heart changed and was leaking more. In 1999 I had open heart surgery and my valve was repaired." After the surgery, all was well. That was until a week after the birth of O'Keeffe's last child, when she knew something wasn't right. "I was having shortness of breath and I was overly fatigued," she explains. "I went to the hospital right away and was told I had CHF. Through medication, a regimen at cardiac rehab and a healthy diet, I felt better again." To maintain her health, O'Keeffe exercises, receives semi-annual checkups and sticks to a clean diet. "I eat low salt, less sugar and less fat. Monitoring what I eat in moderation is ongoing." No one can sleep off a heart attack Carolyn Torella, Regional Communications Director at American Heart Association (AHA), explains, "Katie was smart and acted quickly. Subtle symptoms, such as sweating or feeling overly tired are clues to go with your gut." According to the AHA, some heart attack symptoms women experience include chest pressure, pain in the chest or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach, shortness of breath, a cold sweat, nausea, vom- iting and lightheadedness. "Don't delay!" Torella warns. "A lot of mistakes are made, and no one can sleep-off a heart attack. Call 911, go to a hospital or drive yourself to an ER or a doctor. The biggest mistake is waiting. It can turn into permanent heart failure. Don't be embarrassed." Don't leave your kids without a mom No one can sleep-off a heart attack. Katie O'Keeffe was in her 20's when she started her journey with Congestive Heart Failure. She has had to change her life so she can be around to watch her three children grow up. (Continued on Page 26)

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