“Before, women would get heart disease or strokes when they were elderly,” said Dr. Claudia Martinez, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “Nowadays, women tend to manifest younger, even before menopause.”
Martinez’s youngest female heart attack patient to date: 26.
At Baptist, women under 30 are coming to the emergency room with heart attacks once or twice a month, Roberts said. Additionally, a recent study showed that pregnant women diagnosed with high blood pressure or diabetes are predisposed to heart disease later in life, he said
Research over the last four to five years has shown that some women could benefit from a stress cardiac MRI, yet another test for heart attacks. According to Baptist’s Dr. Stratego Castanes, this test picks up a form of heart disease suffered more commonly by women called microvascular ischemia, which is not typically revealed by stress tests or cardiac catheterization.
“For women, sometimes the first signs of heart disease are in the small vessels that supply the blood to the heart, causing very patchy distribution,” Castanes said. “When you find that, women need to be treated aggressively. But without this test, sometimes women are told they are anxious or crazy and sent home.”
Despite the campaigns, not everyone is paying attention. Like Randall, Lourdes Brezo, a 53-year-old marketing manager, thinks she also had a silent heart attack. Brezo, a lifelong Miamian who recently moved to New York City, had been told to take high blood pressure medicine many years ago but ignored the doctor’s advice. Fast forward to March last year, when Brezo was walking home from church one Sunday and felt her heart racing.
“I had a little pressure on my chest but it wasn’t excruciating or anything,” she said. “It’s like when you go the hair salon and they put the gown on too tight on your neck and you feel like you are choking.”
Brezo ignored the symptoms, put an aspirin under her tongue and went to sleep.
A week later, she started shaking and shivering with cold at work. Brezo popped another aspirin, but her co-workers called paramedics. They took an EKG and determined she had recently suffered a heart attack. Brezo is now under the care of a cardiologist and taking proper medication.
Her advice for women: “Don’t ignore the doctor and don’t ignore your symptoms.”
“I live alone and I could have died in my sleep that night,” she said. “It was the dumbest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”