“I was in shock … I thought I was a healthy individual.”
A heart attack can come on when you least expect it and completely throw you for a loop—whether you know you’re at risk of heart disease or not. “I was in shock … I’m still shocked. I thought I was a healthy individual,” says heart attack survivor Yesenia Araujo.
Symptoms of a heart attack—chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue—can closely resemble those of non-heart related conditions. So people brush them off, thinking it’s not urgent, when in fact, it could be a matter of life or death. (Here’s how to tell if your chest aches spell heart trouble.)
And remember: You’re never too young or too fit to have a heart attack. (Take it from fitness guru and heart attack survivor Bob Harper.) That’s why it’s critical to know your heart disease risk factors, live a heart-healthy lifestyle, and get certain heart-health markers checked, like blood pressure and cholesterol, so you can stop heart disease—and a heart attack—before it’s too late.
Here are three real life heart attack experiences—all from survivors who were taken by complete surprise.
The Unexpected Heart Attack
“We had just gotten to California on vacation. My sister and I went out, we were walking around doing some sightseeing and I started getting chest pressure, which I’ve never had before. The chest pressure got more significant; I started getting pain or numbness radiating down my left arm, and a little bit of trouble breathing. So I had told my husband. I didn’t realize but he had gone and called 911.
“It was hard to process the news. I didn’t have the typical risk factors, I hadn’t had any prior symptoms, I was 46 at the time. It took me a long time to adjust. Every day I just would cry. The doctor said it was like post traumatic stress disorder, cause it was such a shock.”
—Dawn Platt, heart attack survivor
The Silent Heart Attack
“I didn’t know I’d had a heart attack. I had nasal surgery and about a week after I started to get a severe pain in my chest, which I thought could be anything to do with the surgery. So I tried to walk it off, or you know, tried to do whatever I could, but didn’t know what it was. So when I got to the point where it began to concern me, that’s when I went back to see my cardiologist.”
—Shaun Clancy, heart attack survivor
The Disguised Heart Attack
“I have asthma, so when I went to the hospital, I automatically thought that I couldn’t breathe and it was an asthma attack. They were like, ‘OK, here’s your medication,’ and they sent me on my way, but I didn’t get any better. A week later it happened again, and what I mean [when I say] it happened again, it feels like an elephant is sitting on your chest.
“I was in shock … I’m still shocked. I thought I was a healthy individual. Sometimes I didn’t eat right, but I didn’t think that I was at the age that I was at to have a heart attack.”
—Yesenia Araujo, heart attack survivor
Have you survived a heart attack too? Here’s a cardiologist’s most important advice after a heart attack.
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So we had just got into
California on vacation.
00:00:05,582 --> 00:00:10,041
And my sister and I went out, and we were
walking around doing some sightseeing and
00:00:10,041 --> 00:00:13,934
I started getting some chest pressure,
which I've never had before.
00:00:13,934 --> 00:00:17,904
00:00:17,904 --> 00:00:20,250
The chest pressure got more significant.
00:00:20,250 --> 00:00:24,760
I started getting pain or kinda
numbess radiating down my left arm and
00:00:24,760 --> 00:00:25,985
a little bit of trouble breathing.
00:00:25,985 --> 00:00:30,070
So I had told my husband, and I didn't
realize, but he had gone and called 9-1-1.
00:00:30,070 --> 00:00:31,960
I didn't know I had had a heart attack.
00:00:31,960 --> 00:00:36,160
I had nasal surgery, and about a week
after the nasal surgery, I started to get
00:00:36,160 --> 00:00:41,070
a severe pain on my chest, which I thought
could be anything to do with the surgery.
00:00:41,070 --> 00:00:45,670
So I tried to walk it off, or
tried to do whatever I could, and
00:00:45,670 --> 00:00:47,140
I didn't know what it was.
00:00:47,140 --> 00:00:49,950
So when I got to the point
where it began to concern me,
00:00:49,950 --> 00:00:52,340
that's when I went back
to see my cardiologist.
00:00:52,340 --> 00:00:54,910
I have asthma, so
when I went to the hospital,
00:00:54,910 --> 00:00:58,520
I automatically thought that I couldn't
breathe and it was an asthma attack.
00:00:58,520 --> 00:01:00,810
They were like, okay,
here's your medication.
00:01:00,810 --> 00:01:04,000
And they sent me on my way,
but I didn't get any better.
00:01:04,000 --> 00:01:05,470
I didn't feel any better.
00:01:05,470 --> 00:01:08,590
So a week later, it happened again.
00:01:08,590 --> 00:01:09,950
And when I mean it happened again,
00:01:09,950 --> 00:01:13,840
it feels like an elephant
is sitting on your chest.
00:01:13,840 --> 00:01:15,420
It was hard to process the news.
00:01:15,420 --> 00:01:17,790
I didn't have the typical risk factors.
00:01:17,790 --> 00:01:19,760
I hadn't had any prior symptoms.
00:01:19,760 --> 00:01:21,420
I was 46 at the time.
00:01:21,420 --> 00:01:25,600
So it took me a long time to adjust.
00:01:25,600 --> 00:01:28,200
Every day, I just would cry.
00:01:28,200 --> 00:01:32,040
The doctor said it was like post-traumatic
stress disorder, cuz it was such a shock.
00:01:32,040 --> 00:01:34,810
I was in shock, I'm still in shock.
00:01:34,810 --> 00:01:37,304
I thought I was a healthy individual.
00:01:37,304 --> 00:01:39,465
Sometimes I didn't eat right, but
00:01:39,465 --> 00:01:43,724
I didn't think that I was at the age
that I was at to have a heart attack.
00:01:43,724 --> 00:01:49,183