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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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But as her father, Dr. Ryan, said, "You don't have to be an obese, hypertensive, cigarette smoker to be at risk for a heart attack. You have to be alert to the warning signs, and you have to say, 'I know I'm 30 years old, I know I'm pretty active, but I'm going to get this thing checked out."
GETTING A SECOND LOOK
Heart disease is the leading killer of men and women nationwide. In women, its symptoms can be different from the classic chest pain often associated with heart attacks in men.
"Lots of times for women, it's just tremendous fatigue," Ryan said.
Nearly two-thirds of women who die from heart attacks had no history of chest pain, according to the Women's Heart Foundation. But 71 percent of women who had heart attacks experienced a warning sign: the sudden onset of extreme, flu-like fatigue.
Among women who die from heart attacks, many delayed seeking care or weren't quickly diagnosed, the foundation says.
Mele did something critical in the days after seeing the urgent-care physician: She sought out her family doctor several days later for another look at her problem.
That doctor's intervention essentially saved her life.
"Despite the fact that Jenn had had a normal EKG, she ordered another one," Ryan said of the family doctor. "She went through the drill and got another EKG so she could compare notes."
The difference between the two tests was striking.
The family physician faxed the EKG to Ryan, who is vice president of medical affairs at Mary Washington Hospital.
"Oh, man, this is wildly abnormal," Ryan recalls thinking. "From this EKG, it looked like the person was having actue myocardial injury--a heart attack. It was there with exclamation points."
Ryan said he called his daughter and told her the physician's office must've faxed someone else's EKG.
"Jenn said, 'Daddy, I'm the only one in the office,'" Ryan recalled.
'WE HAVE TO WONDER'
The family doctor got Mele an appointment the next morning with a cardiologist. Even then, Mele said she couldn't believe anything could really be wrong.
"I was really very frustrated that this was taking up my Friday morning when I was supposed to be doing my training run," Mele said.