BALLSTON SPA, N.Y. (NEWS10)- Every year heart disease kills more women than any other disease. One in five women will die from it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Judi Wilkins said she feels blessed after embarking on a two years-long journey to get heart-healthy that started after her doctor discovered she had high blood pressure during a routine physical. She was 66 years old.
In addition to high blood pressure, Wilkins was also diagnosed with atrial fibrillation or an irregular heartbeat. She went through seven cardioversions and two cardiac ablations before undergoing two open-heart surgeries at Mount Sinai in New York City.
In hindsight, she said there were signs pointing to a much larger problem that made her suspicious like weight gain, and a gray-tinge to her skin. “You need to pay attention to your body signals, you need to pay attention to what your body is telling you,” Wilkins said.
Neither one of the symptoms Wilkins noticed are on the CDC’s list of symptoms associated with heart disease. Her symptoms fall under what would be considered atypical. Atypical symptoms are more common among women with heart disease, according to Dr. Jessica Saunders, a cardiologist at St. Peter’s Health Partners.
At Mount Sinai, Wilkins had a 12-hour open-heart surgery to repair a mitral valve which ultimately failed and she went into heart failure. Six months after the failed mitral valve surgery she underwent open-heart surgery again to put in an artificial mitral valve and pacemaker.
Wilkins said she changed her diet and lifestyle to treat her heart disease. Last month had surgery to replace her pacemaker with a pacemaker/defibrillator. She said the best advice she can offer people is for them to be honest with their doctors, “You can’t hold anything back when you go to your doctor, you need to tell them exactly how you’re feeling.”
Since her surgery in January, Wilkins is on the mend and said she feels and is doing great. She attributes her success to continued support from her family and the doctors that treated her both locally and at Mount Sinai.