One woman’s advice: "Listen to your heart"
Janice Early, LMH Health
Peggy Corkins, a 76-year-old great grandmother from Tonganoxie, dismissed the discomfort she felt in her chest as just part of growing older.
According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular diseases, which include stroke, claim the life of a woman about every 80 seconds.
Corkins is lucky she isn’t one of those statistics. The active great-grandmother is no stranger to hard work. After her husband died nine years ago, Corkins continued to keep up with some of his mowing business. She said all summer long when she was mowing, her upper chest would hurt.
“I’m 76 years old, and I thought to myself ‘What do you expect? You’re getting older.’”
She said she didn’t even think to bring it up to her doctor. “I didn’t want to complain or be considered a whiner,” she said.
But by fall, she found herself short of breath while walking uphill. And she listened to a prompting – an inner voice that she believes was her late husband telling her “You need to go get this checked.”
After contacting her doctor, she had a stress test. And almost immediately she found herself in the Cardiac Catheterization Lab at LMH Health where doctors performed percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI, also known as angioplasty with stent). In this non-surgical procedure, a thin flexible tube called a catheter is used to place a small structure called a stent to open up blood vessels in the heart that have been narrowed by plaque buildup.
Corkins had PCI procedures on December 10 and December 23. Today she is exercising regularly at Cardiac Rehab at LMH Health and reports she’s feeling better than she has in a long time.
A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that about 80 percent of deaths from coronary artery disease – a name for heart disease caused by narrowing of the arteries, which leads to reduced blood flow to the heart – can be attributed to preventable factors such as poor physical activity, eating unhealthy foods and not keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol under control.
Corkins likes the accountability and camaraderie of going to Cardiac Rehab, where she has quickly become a staff favorite.
“I like to dance; I like to have fun,” she says. “When my husband died, I promised him I’d live for the both of us, and if I didn’t enjoy life I wouldn’t be holding up my end of that promise.”
And she also is glad she listened to her heart and that voice that told her it wasn’t time for her to leave yet.
Her advice to women is to listen to their bodies and pay attention when something is different. “When it tells you something, listen and act.”
Know the signs
According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women. It’s important to recognize these symptoms of heart attack in women:
- Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and returns.
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, your back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort.
- Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
- As with men, the most common heart attack symptom in women is chest pain or discomfort. But it’s important to note that women are more likely to experience the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.
If you have any of these symptoms:
- Do not wait to call for help. Dial 911.
- Try to stay as calm as possible and take deep, slow breaths while you wait for emergency responders.
- Do not drive yourself or have someone drive you to the hospital unless you have no other choice.
Janice Early is special projects leader for marketing and communications at LMH Health, which is a major sponsor of Lawrence Journal-World’s Health section.
Go Red for Women is platform for awareness
Go Red for Women is the American Heart Association's national movement to end heart disease and stroke in women. The AHA is having its annual fundraising event on February 21 in Lawrence.
Sponsored by LMH Health and Cardiovascular Specialists of Lawrence, Go Red for Women gets underway with a silent auction and expo from 10-11:30 a.m., followed by lunch and program from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., all at the Burge Union, 1565 Irving Hill Road on the KU Campus.
Go Red for Women is open to the public. Tickets are $50. To purchase tickets, visit heart.org/lawrencegored or visit any Truity Credit Union or First State Bank and Trust office in Lawrence.
Three local women will share a little about their patient experiences during the program:
- Peggy Corkins, 76, Tonganoxie, who had two procedures to place stents in her heart in December
- Lois Ammel, Lawrence, who had a stroke at age 56
- Amy Montrose, Lawrence, who has spent 46 years surviving a congenital heart condition