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In women, the signs of heart problems aren't always so clear.
Jenn Mele, shown with husband Dave and kids Katie
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BY JANET MARSHALL
Jenn Mele was in bed one night three years ago, on the eve of an 18-mile training run, when she suffered the most extreme heartburn of her life.
She said she called her dad, Fredericksburg physician Dr. Tom Ryan, and asked for advice. He gave her some remedies for heartburn and encouraged her to get checked out if she didn't feel better the next day.
But the next morning, Mele said she woke up feeling fine. Her heartburn was gone. She wasn't breathless. So she went on her run, training for the New York Marathon.
After the run, Mele said she felt tired, but "normally tired." But she had heart palpitations that were disconcerting. So, she called her dad again, who told her to see a doctor before the weekend set in.
It was late on a Friday afternoon. Her family physician's office was closed, so Mele went to an urgent care center, where a doctor ordered an EKG. The test can identify problems in the heart.
The results were normal, Mele said, and her blood pressure and heart rate were in the normal range as well. So the doctor sent her home with heartburn drugs.
It was another week before Mele learned she'd had a heart attack.
"It was such an eye-opener," Mele said. "I had sort of felt invincible."
'YOU HAVE TO BE ALERT'
Mele, now 38, of Norfolk, will share her story of diagnosis and recovery Feb. 6 at an event designed to raise awareness of the prevalence of heart disease among women.
Proceeds from ticket sales will be used to buy blood pressure cuffs and scales for under-insured women with heart disease in the Fredericksburg area, so they can monitor their blood pressure and weight.
Women in the Giving Spirit (WINGS), whose members include Mele's mom, is sponsoring the tea and program along with the Virginia Heart and Vascular Institute.
"I would just like to elevate awareness," said Susan Ryan, Mele's mom.
Mele was 35 and an active mother of two young children when her heart attack struck.
She had low cholesterol, maintained a healthy weight and exercised strenuously most days of the week.