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Dr. Folasade Alli: Are you Smiling your Way Through a Heart Attack?

Have you ever heard the expression “never be caught without a smile?” That’s what a lot of us do; smile through our pain. A lot of us women tend to everyone else (our children, husband, relatives) but ourselves. How often has your doctor asked, “How are you?” and you responded with “I’m fine,” but underneath it all, you’re stressed, overwhelmed, and worried about your health? Please stop doing this – be honest and transparent with your doctor.

How often have you had to go to a party while unwell because it was a family member or relative, but you had to smile pretending everything is okay? Or perhaps you had been experiencing difficulties but were unable to take time out for a health assessment due to work or a social event with business colleagues, so you pushed it away and masked it with a smile.

Heart diseases have wreaked havoc on families, particularly for children, so we attempt to behave like our typical selves when we are with them, and pretend we are perfectly fine. Many relatives and friends need and want us to recover from a medical crisis such as a heart attack, so they most times look for evidence – like a smile – that indicates we are feeling well. 

This type of deceitful compassion can backfire when, in order to appear fine, we begin to outdo ourselves in activities that we are not yet capable of after a heart attack. As we’ve behaved so well that we’ve forgotten our medical issue, those crises resurface, and there we are, wishing we’d had the bravery to express how we truly felt from the beginning. Perhaps it’s time to start telling ourselves that we don’t have to smile all the time.

Despite the fact that heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in Nigeria, women frequently mistake the signs for less serious conditions such as acid reflux, the flu, or natural aging, and then become surprised when they hear that they may be having a heart attack. In most cases, we do this because we are afraid, and we always prioritize our families first.

Many women believe that the symptoms of a heart attack are clear, and very “serious”, but they can be mild and oftentimes confusing. You may sense shortness of breath – as if you ran a marathon when, in fact, you haven’t made a move. Some women who have had a heart attack experience upper back tightness that makes it feel like something is squeezing them, or a rope is being wrapped around them. Other symptoms to check for include dizziness, lightheadedness, and fainting.

I have noticed many women take aspirin when they believe they are suffering a heart attack and never call emergency services, but whether or not they are considering taking aspirin for a heart attack, they also should call for assistance. 

Heart diseases can be avoided. Below are some pointers:

  • Make an appointment with your doctor to determine your own risk for cardiovascular disease.
  • Stop smoking; quitting smoking can reduce your risk of cardiovascular heart disease by 50% in only one year?
  • Begin a fitness routine. Walking for 30 minutes daily can reduce your chances of heart attack and stroke.
  • Adjust your family’s diet if necessary. You’ll find brilliant replacements, healthy snacking options, and improved preparation techniques. When cooking poultry, for example, choose the leaner light flesh (breast part) rather than the fattier dark meat (legs and thighs), and be certain to peel off the chicken skin.

Above all, don’t smile your way through a heart attack, and ensure you take good care of yourself.

 

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