Karen Lugo Knows From Experience: Heart Attack Symptoms Can Be Different For Women

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The pressure between her shoulder blades would not let up.

And when Karen Lugo, who is always cold, started sweating, her son called 911.

“I had no idea that I was having a heart attack,” said Karen. She’s young (just 54), in good shape, and had no cardiac history. “I never had chest pain. My arm didn’t hurt.” No sharp shooting pains, just pressure. “Everybody who knows me, knows my family, was pretty shocked.” Neither of her parents had heart problems.

She was fatigued and her stomach was upset, but she thought that might be the flu.

“Since I had my heart attack, I’ve had the symptoms printed up.” And, she’s eager to tell women that the symptoms for women are different than those experienced by men.

Unexplained feelings of nervousness and anxiety. Tingling in hands and arms. Headaches. Pain in the jaw or neck, shortness of breath, nausea. Or, breaking out in a cold sweat. They are all on her list and the list of the American Heart Association.

“And I tell everybody to quit smoking…I’d already started quitting before the heart attack,” Karen said. Since: no more cigarettes.

Within an hour of her arrival in the St. Elizabeth Hospital emergency room, Dr. Daniel Courtade, a cardiologist with St. Elizabeth Physicians, put a stent in one of her arteries. “Luckily,” said Karen, “it was one of the smaller ones.” But it was completely clogged.

Two weeks later, Karen was back at work as a quality technician for a local factory.

There are no restrictions on what she can do and that means the world to Karen, who can run and play ball with her four grandchildren, ages 16 months to 13 years.

“I enjoy my grandkids. They keep me young.”

Cardiology Care at St. Elizabeth

Learn more about cardiology services offered at the St. Elizabeth Heart & Vascular Institute.


Know the signs of a heart attack and, if you think you are having a heart attack, minutes matter. St. Elizabeth Healthcare recommends that you call 911 and do not attempt to drive yourself to the hospital.