Janet Southern.
Janet Southern.

Survivor warns: don’t ignore the signs of a heart attack

JANET Southern is proof that you should never ignore the warning signs of a heart attack, no matter how minor you think they are.

The Tewantin resident narrowly escaped death after suffering a heart attack nine years ago at the age of 51, which resulted in her having to have a stent inserted into an artery in her heart.

Janet explained that she first felt pressure under her collarbone, like someone pushing on her chest, while she was riding her bike but brushed it off as something minor.

After feeling the same sensation a few more times over the following days, she visited her GP, who referred her to a heart specialist.

"It just felt weird. When it happened two or three times I thought I should get it seen to, but I wasn't thinking 'heart attack'," she said.

But four days before her appointment with the heart specialist, she began feeling the same sensation again while she was getting ready to go to bed and after 10 minutes of discomfort, her partner insisted on calling an ambulance - an act that may very well have saved her life.

"It came out of left field as I was very fit for my age and had even been doing triathlons," Janet said.

"The problem is that every time you experience such a thing, damage is done. I suffered damage to the front and left walls of my heart.

"But now I keep fit and the doctors say it looks like my heart has learnt to compensate for the damage."

If fact, after attending cardiac rehabilitation at Buderim, Janet now leads a very active life, exercising six days a week.

Janet has spoken about her experience to warn other about the dangers of a heart attack, as part of Heart Week, which runs until Thursday.

"I was also told that the pain you feel relates to where in the heart the blockage is. So everyone feels it differently and, even for me, the next one (a heart attack) could be different," Janet said. "If in doubt, call an ambulance. Some people think it's indigestion but don't ignore it. The ambulance would rather pick up someone with indigestion than a corpse."

Warning signs of heart attack:

Do you feel pain, pressure, heaviness or tightness?

In any of these areas: chest, neck, jaw, arm/s, shoulder/s, back?

You may also feel: nauseous, a cold sweat, short of breath, dizzy.

NOTE: Chest pain that is a sharp and stabbing sensation is generally less associated with having a heart attack. Also, women are more likely to experience non-chest pain symptoms of a heart attack than men.


Achieving a healthy lifestyle critical part of rehabilitation

FIGURES released by the Heart Foundation indicate heart-attack survivor Janet Southern is one of the lucky ones.

One in two heart-attack survivors does not return to the same level of paid work or physical activity as before their attack.

A survey of 351 heart- attack survivors showed even performing basic activities of personal hygiene, such as showering or bathing, was difficult, with more than one in five people stating they could not do so at the same level prior to their heart attack.

The survey also found that one in four survivors had been unable to resume work at the same level prior to their heart attack, and an additional one in four survivors had not been able to resume work at all.

Almost 45% of survivors also had not been able to look after or play with their children/grandchildren at the same level or at all, and almost 50% could not do the gardening at the same level as before or at all.

The Heart Foundation chief medical advisor Garry Jennings said achieving a healthy lifestyle was critical for those who had had a heart attack.

"Every year 55,000 Australians have a heart attack, yet only around 13,000 of survivors will attend a life-saving cardiac rehabilitation program," Prof Jennings said.

"Without relevant life- style adjustments heart- attack survivors might have another heart attack or they might find themselves with long-term damage to the heart such as heart failure or atrial fibrillation," he said.

"Importantly, more than one in three survivors surveyed felt attending cardiac rehabilitation gave them an understanding of the emotions and fears they were dealing with and felt it also reduced their anxiety/ depression."

The Heart Foundation said people were 40% less likely to be readmitted to hospital and 25% less likely to die from another heart attack if they had participated in a cardiac rehabilitation program.

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