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Avera Medical Minute: Heart disease the number one killer of women

Published: Apr. 27, 2021 at 5:19 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - As a busy Mom and a Nurse practitioner, it’s easy to understand why Laura Armstrong may get tired on occasion, but her symptoms grew worse.

“When I would go up the stairs, I’d get short of breath and just have just kind of this twinge of discomfort not really a pain. Just tired feeling fatigued and tired,” said Armstrong.

Her primary care physician suggested a stress test, based on Laura’s family history of early heart disease. She agreed to the test but didn’t think they’d find anything.

“I thought I’m 41 years old, there’s no way it’s my heart,” said Armstrong.

On the treadmill, things changed quickly.

“I was about two minutes into the stress test, walking on the treadmill and I started to develop symptoms,” said Armstrong.

The stress test was stopped, and she immediately had an angiogram.

“And they found one area specifically that was severely blocked,” said Armstrong.

Avera Cardiologist Dr. Sherrie Brooks saw the severe blockage on the test results.

“In Laura’s case, she actually had a blockage right at the main hub, which is also called the Widowmaker,” said Dr. Brooks.

Blood supply had to be restored quickly.

" The widowmaker is analogous to the tree trunk, the tree trunk supplies, all of the branches in a tree with its with his lifeline and just like in our body. The main artery which is the left main artery it supplies all of the branches, and the left side of the heart. The side of the heart that actually supplies the blood and pumps the blood around the body more so than the right coronary artery,” said Brooks.

Because of her young age and the location of the blockage, a stent wasn’t an option. Laura had a two-vessel bypass. Being proactive by talking to her doctor, may have saved her life.

“If you’re more fatigued, if you have pain between your shoulder blades, if you have shortness of breath or difficulty breathing when you’re doing activities, if you have chest pain or pressure discomfort, if you’re sick to your stomach when you’re doing things, arm pain, neck pain, jaw pain... anything that’s different or new you need to really talk to your doctor about it to make sure that you’re getting screened for coronary disease because it’s the number one killer in females,” said Brooks.

If you have a female relative who had heart disease before the age of 65 or a male relative before the age of 55, talk to your doctor.

“And it’s so important to get screened early particularly if you have a family history of coronary disease,” said Brooks.

“I was thankful they found it when they did because I know I wouldn’t be here today if I, if I hadn’t gone in,” said Armstrong.

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