"Heart disease wasn't supposed to happen to me."
Geri Randles takes healthy living seriously. A licensed massage therapist, she eats well and exercises regularly. So when she started feeling pain and pressure in her upper torso and having terrible hot flashes, she never thought it could be her heart. "I'm a woman, doing everything right," Randles says. "Heart disease wasn't supposed to happen to me."
But Randles, like many women, didn't know her symptoms were warning signs of a heart attack. The typical sign we think of is chest pain but, according to Shimoli Shah, M.D., "women are more likely than men to have unusual symptoms during a cardiac event." Dr. Shah is a cardiologist at the OHSU Knight Cardiovascular Institute and Medical Director of the OHSU Women's Cardiovascular Program. She says that symptoms like fatigue, sweating, shortness of breath, and gastrointestinal discomfort are all more common in women.
Randles survived and has continued her healthy lifestyle, with new awareness of how to prevent further cardiovascular problems. Mended Hearts, OHSU's survivorship group focused on women, is a key part of her recovery –both for education and for support. "Mended Hearts is insight just for women on how we can take care of ourselves," says Randles.
But for her, the support she feels at meetings is what matters most. "I don't feel so alone," she says. "Talking about it is scary stuff for my friends and family. At Mended Hearts, I am understood."