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Looking back, I can see plenty of symptoms I ignored. I ignored some because my head was in the proverbial sand, but others I ignored because I had no idea that the symptoms were of heart disease or peripheral artery disease. I thought I was out of shape. I thought I just needed to stop smoking. I thought the leg pain was from arthritis or my sciatic nerve. I thought If I just pushed myself harder, I’d be fine.

I had no idea that one in four women will die of  a heart attack or that one in three people have heart disease. I had no idea that atherosclerosis can mean that arteries other than those around your heart can become blocked. I had no idea that even though I was thin, active and only fifty one years old, I already had the arteries of an eighty year old and was in very real and immanent danger of sudden death from a heart attack and also in danger of losing my legs from poor circulation.

For years, my symptoms were subtle and came on gradually and slowly, so gradually and slowly that I had no trouble explaining them away. When my symptoms suddenly became more severe and debilitating, they were confusing and misleading, a mystery even to my doctor. It was only after insistence on further testing that the disease was diagnosed.

If you wonder or doubt; if you have the slightest inkling that something is wrong, find a cardiologist now. If he or she brushes you off, find another and another until you feel the truth has been obtained.

My Symptoms of Heart Disease

for years- occasional neck and jaw achiness with activity, fatigue, shortness of breath with exertion, back left shoulder pain, a feeling of fullness with a slight sense of pressure in my throat

sudden onset- nausea, sweating, lightheaded, dizziness, back left shoulder pain which all came on when I stood up and was relieved when I would lie down

angina now- jaw and neck achiness, back left shoulder pain, sweating, chest pain, dull ache in chest, left arm achiness, shortness of breath and that same fullness in my throat

My Symptoms of Peripheral Artery Disease or Peripheral Vascular Disease (PAD or PVD)

For years- heaviness and burning in legs when walking (similar to pain of working out), relieved by rest, cold feet, joint pain, burning and tingling of toes

Now- heaviness, pain and burning in legs when walking, relieved by rest, inability to walk more than 50 feet without pain, weakness in legs, pain and burning in buttocks and hips when walking, joint pain, joint stiffness, purplish toenails, flaky toenails, ridges on toenails, purplish toes, cold feet and calves, shiny skin on calves, decreased hair on legs, slow healing of leg wounds, delayed bleeding after cut or scratch to feet or legs, numbness of feet and legs, aching of feet and legs at night in bed, cramping feeling in legs at night, swelling of feet and legs

The picture is of my mother’s artificial leg. My father died of a heart attack when he was thirty four years old. That took care of my inheriting bum arteries around my heart. My mother had a series of strokes and PAD. She lost her leg when the stent in her femoral artery became suddenly blocked during surgery for colon cancer. No amount of gruesome heroics could save her leg. She died of Colon Cancer March 22, 2010. I’m not sure what to do with her leg. I was hoping to donate it somewhere.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Mirjami permalink
    March 15, 2011 12:26 pm

    But you can write so funny and good. I envie you for it. I do not know, why I have not noticed you earlier on the pages of womenheart. We have so much the same disease. I had my triple bypass 27 years ago and it lasted till 1999, until my family doctor realised that my leg pain was not from statins but from clogged arteries. I got stents in illiaca communis and illiaca externa.
    Nevertheless I still have pain in my calves- almost all the time- mostly it disturbes at night, when I cannot sleep. They have examined my leg arteries. The blood flow is good. They tell me all being neurologic now. But I do not believe them. But I can walk and do cross country skiing. The pain is not so bad, if I am doing sports. – That sounds perhaps neurologic. But I have not gone to a neurologist. I do not like to take more pills. How about your leg arteries? Do you have still pain? Can you walk? I think you are one of the seldom people like me with such an extrem atheriosclerose. The articicial leg of your mother on the picture frightens me. English is not my best foreign language. It is German. So excuse this bad style. You should write a book of your experiences.

    • March 15, 2011 2:45 pm

      Thank you for reading my blog. I agree, there seem to be thankfully few of us with this advances arterial blockage throughout the body. I can walk about fifty yards usually now before I have pain. I too have the calf burning and also burning in my hips. I don’t have a femoral pulse and cannot feel a pulse on my feet. However they can still hear one on both feet with ultrasound. As you may have read, they were unable to place stents in my legs. All things considered, I think I do fairly well.
      I am so impressed that you can participate in sports. the exercise you get surely must help to slow the advancement of the disease. Did you have to have another bypass? How old are you now? Thanks again for reading all this, for subscribing and for your kind comments.

      • Mirjami permalink
        March 29, 2011 12:48 pm

        I did not have a new bypass and I think it was good so. I was in the hospital 2008 for three days and all examinations were done for the new bypass and then they sent me home, because there were 4 transplantations to do and they had no time to do my surgery. I was so afraid seeing all the women and men waiting for an heart transplant that I did not have any problemes more with my heart. So here I am. The bypass which should have been done new, has got 2 stents, one the end of 2008 and the other the end of 2009. This bypass (circonflex) has now 9 stents. I feel fine at the moment, but my calves are hurting more than before. They hurt more by sleeping than by walking. I can walk 1 1/2 hours without a lot of pain. I think, I have got used to it to have a certain pain in my calves. I have two stents in my illiaca arteries since 1999. Last thursday we were walking 18 km and after it I could have cried of pain in my legs. I will go to a neurologist because of the calf pain in two weeks. They told me in the hospital (were I had a heart catheter done) that the pain in my legs were neurologic. I do not believe it.
        I had not read your comment above untill now. I am 65 years old and have lived with my triple bypass for 27 years. It is a wonder.

  2. April 3, 2011 2:04 pm

    It’s easy to check the blood supply to the legs. They use special blood pressure cuffs to measure the pressure at various places on the legs. I hope they have done this for you, though something neurological might have more treatment options and provide you with more relief. Again, I am inspired and hopeful having read your story. It is a wonder! I know you were so glad not to have to go through the bypass surgery again.

  3. JamaicanMeNuts permalink
    April 26, 2011 10:39 am

    So nice to have found your blog. I was wondering how you were making out these days.
    I wish I could write as well as you. I enjoy reading your blogs; validation for my maladies. But more importantly, I am inspired with how you cope.
    At age 57 I am finally applying for SSDI. The PAD is exhausting, I get repeated bronichal/lung infections and now the neurologist wants a piece of me. Maybe he can diagnose my back, neck pain, headaches and vision and balance issues. I am hoping there is no cerebral aneurysm.
    The vascular surgeon said my stents are patent.
    I miss working as a dental hygienist however it is time to care for myself. The money will work itself out I no longer fret about it.
    I spent a week in hospital with status asthmaticus; it scared me to death.
    Off to take a walk before the heat gets worse. So good to see you again,

    • April 26, 2011 11:47 am

      Sp good to hear from you too and thank you for reading my ramblings and for your sweet comments. Glad to to hear your stents are okay and pad not worse. I keepmeaning to post again both on blog and wh…! I was in hospital in feb too and just didn’t want to talk about it for awhile. Strange for me after talking ang writing about it so much for two years. My doc seems obsessed with me having that aortic bi-fem bypass. I’m obsessed with not having it! We are at an empasse i guess. Anyway, thanks so much for writing and getting back n touch. Allie

  4. April 17, 2012 12:00 pm

    I am so happy I found your blog. I haven’t had a bi-pass (yet) but I do have three stents. A lot of the symptoms and the run around with doctors are similar. I have a nagging distrust of the medical establishment as they seem to disagree with each other while looking at the same thing.
    The good days/bad days you talk about is my life. I can go for weeks feeling fine doing almost anything I want and then I have a crappy day and go through the list of terrors in my head about having a heart attack and not being able to get the help I need soon enough. The doctors are no help with this fear they say if you feel bad enough call 911 or go to the ER. My thoughts are what if I wait to long? What if I get a dumb ass in ER ? Eventually I calm down and live to bitch another day.
    I am just blowing off steam; thanks for your blog it helps to hear from someone who has been there and can express themselves well. 🙂

    • April 18, 2012 6:03 pm

      Thanks for checking out my blog and for your kind words. I know exactly what you mean about everything going along fine and then falling once more into panic, fear and uncertainty. It takes so little to rock my world! Thanks again and I so hope you can avoid the bypass experience.

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