A Heart Attack Risk You Might Not Know

Former NFL cheerleader has heart attack at age 45

Heart disease is a big killer of Americans, specifically the number one killer of women. That's because a lot of women and their doctors still don't know all the risk factors.

Meet one woman who thought she was doing everything right, but nearly lost her life from a heart attack.

"I had been healthy my whole life," said Carrie Loveless. "I had a very, very healthy diet. I was a cheerleader with the Washington Redskins from 1987 to 1989 so that really kept me motivated to stay in shape."

So then why at age 45, did Loveless suffer from a heart attack?

"The symptoms struck like lightning," she said. "I had severe chest pain and I had numbness in my left arm and I had nausea. I'm healthy. I lead an active life. This really can't be happening. I'm young. I'm female, but yet I was having heart attack."

Loveless received treatment and recovered, but doctors were puzzled as to why and how one of the arteries leading to her heart became clogged. Her only risk factor?

"The best that we can come up with is stress," Loveless said. "I lead a very stress life."

That's because she is an event planner and her husband is in the military, so they frequently moved around, often to foreign countries.

"Unfortunately, I have to say, I wasn't surprised," said George Washington University Hospital cardiologist Dr. Susan Bennett. "I see a lot of younger women with heart disease."

Bennett said she sees similar cases all the time. That's because not enough women are keeping track of their risk factors.

"If we're able to get all major risk factors in line: blood pressure, high cholesterol, low good cholesterol, we're able to eliminate over 80 percent of heart disease and stroke."

But when it comes to things like stress, that can be tough to measure, Bennett said.

"The thing is, stress is hard to avoid," she said. "It's more how we respond to stress that's more affective in eliminating heart disease and stroke."

Carrie Loveless, now age 47, said since her heart attack, she's been trying to manage her stress levels. She still keeps up her healthy lifestyle, but she's added relaxing hobbies like playing the piano.

"If it can happen to me, it can happen to you and all of us need to take care of our health each and every day."

Loveless actually credits the Today show with saving her life. Just two weeks before her heart attack, she had been watching a segment on women and heart disease. She thought, she better remember the heart attack symptoms so she could tell her friends and family. She had no idea that she was the one at risk.

More Information:

Healthy Mouth, Healthy Body Campaign

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