America's Public Enemy No. 1

Jenna knew what was coming and lay down on the floor of her home office as quickly as possible...

A few days before, on March 7, 2022, the then-46-year-old mother had been on a mission to do some cleaning. COVID and the flu had kept the family cooped up indoors for the past three months, leaving the house in disarray. Finally, her kids were back to school and her husband back to his job.

On a Monday, Jenna started feeling weird little pricks of pain in her chest that came and went. She figured it was in her lungs and that it was finally her turn to tango with the flu.

The pain worsened the next day, but she brushed it off. On Wednesday, while Jenna was vacuuming, she needed to take a breather and sit. But once she had gotten up and walked to her office, the room suddenly started getting darker.

It wasn't the lights... Jenna knew she was about to faint.

So she lay down on the floor. And that was when, as she'd later tell the news, "It felt like an elephant sitting on me... I couldn't move at all."

She awoke to convulsions, like she was being electrocuted, surrounded by her own vomit.

Somehow, she managed to crawl on her belly two rooms away to her phone and dial 911... and even to unlock the front door so the firefighters could get in.

At the hospital, the doctors confirmed what Jenna had suspected just moments before passing out the first time: She had suffered a massive heart attack. A main artery in the heart had gotten blocked, cutting off blood to half of her ticker.

To get the blood flowing again – and to stabilize her for open-heart surgery – the doctors fed a thin, tiny heart pump through the artery in her leg.

These days, Jenna has to take pills daily to keep her blood from clotting to prevent another blockage and to keep her blood pressure low (since high blood pressure can damage blood vessels and make the heart work harder). She's also dealing with hair loss caused by the stress from her terrifying ordeal. But she survived.

Many others aren't as lucky... Every 34 seconds, on average, an American dies of cardiovascular disease.

Cardiovascular disease is a mass murderer that has just reached a milestone... It's the leading cause of death in the U.S. for the 100th year in a row. And apparently, according to a 2023 Harris Poll survey, more than half of Americans aren't aware of this grim fact.

But women are especially at risk... Compared with men, women of all ages are more likely to die after a heart attack. And more than 40% of women in the U.S. have heart disease.

Women are also likely to ignore the warning signs of a heart attack. That's because they usually get the not-so-classic symptoms... ones that mimic other conditions like the flu, indigestion, or even anxiety. These symptoms include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fatigue or sudden weakness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Neck, jaw, back, or abdominal pain
  • Feeling like something terrible is about to happen 

It's important to know that women and men don't experience the same heart-attack symptoms. Like Jenna, women tend to feel a crushing, elephant-on-the-chest sensation during a heart attack while men get the sharp, squeezing sensation that you see in TV shows and movies.

Aside from learning to recognize the danger signs of heart attack, learn these two steps to save someone else's life by watching this 90-second video on how to give CPR – no mouth-to-mouth contact needed.

It's also a good idea to consider getting CPR certification, though, since you'll be more likely to perform the correct steps. But here in the U.S., Good Samaritan laws make it so that you can't get in trouble for giving someone CPR. After all, it's estimated that if a bystander gives CPR to someone whose heart has stopped, that doubles their chance of survival.

And if you've been getting my Retirement Millionaire newsletter each month, make sure you haven't missed my December issue. In it, I cover the major types of heart attack (yes, there's more than one kind) out there, as well as my other tips on how to keep the ol' ticker in good shape and exactly what to do if you or someone else is having a heart attack. (Go here you're curious about trying out a subscription.)

What We're Reading...

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
February 1, 2024