At 51, Janet Davis started having chest pains and feeling short of breath. Given her age and good health, her primary care doctor thought she might have acid reflux and sent her home with a prescription.
But the pain continued — and then got worse. The busy real estate agent was attending a home inspection when the symptoms returned in full force, and this time, Davis felt a severe pain in her left arm. She went to the emergency room, where an EKG and a cardiac enzyme test showed no problems with her heart.
Yet the pain persisted, especially when Davis exerted herself. Her primary care doctor recommended she see a cardiologist, and Davis made an appointment with Pamela Rama, MD, with Baptist Heart Specialists at Baptist Medical Center Beaches.
“Many women ignore their symptoms, but it’s very important to rule out heart disease first,” said Dr. Rama, who serves as the medical director of HeartWise for Women.
Based on Davis’s symptoms and family history of heart disease, Dr. Rama suggested she have a coronary calcium score, a non-invasive test using computed tomography (CT) to check for calcified plaque in the heart’s arteries. “If the test shows calcifications, then heart disease has likely started to form,” explained Dr. Rama.
Davis’s calcium score was 151, showing moderate evidence of heart disease. That led to a cardiac catheterization at Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville, where cardiologist C. David Hassel, MD, could get a clearer picture of Davis’s heart.
The results: One of Davis’s major arteries was 95 percent blocked. He placed a stent in her artery to open it up and allow proper blood flow.
“If she had not had the stent put in, she may have had a heart attack, sudden cardiac death or congestive heart failure,” Dr. Rama said.
In fact, sudden cardiac death is the first sign of a problem in 60 percent of women with heart disease. “The fact that Davis didn’t ignore her symptoms and kept seeking medical help may have saved her life,” Dr. Rama said.
Since then, Davis has made some big changes to keep her heart healthy. She’s eating more fruits, vegetables, lean meats and limiting sugar. She’s already lost nearly 20 pounds.
“I feel very blessed that Dr. Rama was able to catch this before it got worse,” said Davis. “This was a life-changing experience.”
“I didn’t think heart disease was a possibility at my age,” she added. “Don’t ignore any signals your body sends you.”
Dr. Rama’s top 10 heart-healthy foods
- Olive Oil
- Alcohol in moderation (one glass per day for women, two for men)
- Vitamin D
- Green Tea
- Dark chocolate
- Fish and fish oil