Heart health statewide campaign targets women

SOUTHINGTON, Conn. (WTNH) — Leigh Pechillo was celebrating Mother’s Day last year when she experienced severe heartburn, along with shortness of breath the night before. What her doctor had to say surprised her.

“When I described the heartburn I was having, well it could be esophageal, but I can’t rule out a heart attack so I had no idea.”

Leigh collapsed shortly afterward and was eventually transported by helicopter to Hartford Hospital.

“It was a 70% blockage but what happened was the blockage ended up stopping my heart which then caused cardiac arrest, which then caused me to collapse.”

Leigh almost died three times in the hospital. Like most women, life she says just got in the way. At the time, caring for a son with two congenital heart defects and a father with heart issues.

“You deal with the stress, you deal with everything you need to deal with and then you consult with your counselors, Ben and Jerry every once in a while and you think you are doing okay.”

Still, many women are not aware warning signs of a heart attack for women are different from men. Billboards are up, part of a seven month statewide Go Red campaign, highlighting seven symptoms. Jill Hummel, President of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, chairs it.

“Most women,” Jill said, “Don’t understand the unique signs of a heart attack and as a result mortality rates among women when they have a heart attack much higher than men.”

The tough to recognize signs are fatigue, sleep apnea, indigestion, nausea, pain between shoulders, jaw pain and shortness of breath.

Jill stressed, “If we could save one woman’s life as a result of this campaign so that one more woman is at the dinner table with her family than otherwise would be, I would feel we have done great work.”

Leigh has heard it all before but after surgeons inserted a stent, heart health is now front and center.

“We hear the messages but we don’t absorb it, we don’t always pay attention.”

80 percent of heart disease and stroke can be prevented by living a healthier lifestyle.

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