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Published on November 01, 2016

Don't wait for a heart attack to think about heart health

Hope Unverzagt

Hope Unverzagt with her daughter, Bronwyn. The busy mother of 11 continues to live an active lifestyle following a heart attack at 47

"I never thought about heart disease," recalls Hope Unverzagt of Sparta, Wisconsin. "I have no risk factors—my blood pressure and cholesterol are good, I don't smoke, I'm not overweight and my grandparents lived into their 90s. So I was very surprised when I had a heart attack at age 47."

Hope is…thankfully…living proof that heart disease is something everyone needs to be aware of. This includes knowing the symptoms of a heart attack, heeding the signs and getting help right away.

On April 25, 2013 Hope was at home visiting with her friend, Lisa. Suddenly she had what she thought was severe heartburn, then pain in her back and left arm. "I got up and felt weird, like I was going to pass out," recalls Hope. "I was not feeling very well. I was nauseated and sweat was pouring off me. I went downhill quickly."

"While Hope had many classic heart attack symptoms, women often have less specific symptom," says Hope's cardiologist Piraon Sutthiwan, MD, "This includes fatigue, dizziness, trouble sleeping, shortness of breath, indigestion and anxiety. Women may experience these symptoms weeks before a heart attack, but they often don't take them seriously."

Heed the signs

Luckily for Hope those around her recognized the need to get help. Hope continues, "My mother-in-law walked in about this time. She and Lisa quickly decided it was time to call 9-1-1. I agreed—I had an overwhelming sense something was wrong."

At Gundersen, Hope had a procedure to open one of her heart arteries that was 90 percent blocked. Today, Hope is doing very well. She continues to see Dr. Sutthiwan annually, but no longer needs most of her heart medications. 

"Hope is proof of the importance of seeking medical attention right away if you have symptoms.

Because she lives such a healthy lifestyle and she got help quickly, her long-term prognosis is very good," Dr. Sutthiwan reports. "Hope has done everything right including cardiac rehab, eating healthy, maintaining a healthy weight and keeping a good attitude." 

Hope's last name—Unverzagt—is German for undaunted which is appropriate for her. This busy mother of 11 children continues to lead a healthy, active lifestyle and encourages others to do the same. Now 50 years old, Hope shares, "There's a formula used to help determine a person's 'heart age.' My heart age comes up as 35." Undaunted, indeed.

Five minutes could save your life!

You, too, may be at risk for a heart attack. Be proactive and take Gundersen's free online heart disease risk profiler. It's quick and easy. It can provide you with peace-of-mind or give you the steps you and your doctor can take to reduce your risk for heart disease.

Take our free heart risk profiler

By taking the profiler, you'll discover your heart age. You'll also find out how to lower your risk for heart disease so you can truly be young at heart.

Take the profiler today