Heart Attack at 40: Young Mom Bouncing Back

Cardiac-Rehab-PatientThe possibility that she might be having a heart attack only briefly crossed Becky Griffith’s mind. She was, after all, only 40 years old.

Last November, the mother of two began to feel severely fatigued and short of breath. While she had no fever and didn’t feel sick, something still didn’t feel right.

“It felt like I had run a marathon,” said Becky, who co-owns A New You Salon and Spa in Springfield with her younger sister.

After her exhaustion lingered for a week, Becky decided it was time to visit her doctor. That’s when she briefly considered a heart attack but dismissed it. She received an EKG, and her physician said she likely was experiencing acid reflux.

Any relief she felt from her doctor’s visit was short-lived. She awoke at 11:30 that night with severe pain in the middle of her chest and radiating down both arms and in her jaw. She stayed awake in a recliner through the night and finally took her blood pressure at 6:30 a.m. It was well above normal.

“I knew something was wrong,” Becky said. “I knew I had to get to the emergency room. Thank God I did.”

In Memorial Medical Center’s Emergency Department, Becky was becoming increasingly nauseous and was breaking out into cold sweats.

“I actually had the heart attack in the Emergency Department,” Becky said. “Everyone was awesome.”

Becky was rushed to one of the hospital’s cardiac operating rooms and had a stent put in to clear the blockage in her artery.

Heart attacks aren’t prevalent among women like Becky who are 40 years old or younger. In fact, the average age for women to have their first heart attack is 72.2 years old, according to the American Heart Association.

In Becky’s case, heart disease runs in her family. A grandfather died in his sleep at 49 years old from a heart attack. Her father had quadruple bypass surgery in his early 50s. And an aunt survived a massive heart attack the year before Becky.

Now that Becky’s back home and is focused on her recovery, what’s been her biggest change? “Exercise, exercise, exercise,” she said.

Becky is active in Memorial Heart and Vascular Services’ Phase 2 cardiac rehab program at Koke Mill Medical Center in Springfield. She’s cleaned up her diet, cutting out the sugar, soda and caffeine. And she’s making sure her family is making healthy lifestyle choices, including her husband, Shawn, and their two children, 11-year-old Kyle and 2-year-old Kinley.

“I cherish every day, and I’m motivated to exercise,” Becky said. “I heard that only one in seven people changes their lives after a heart attack. I want to be that one.”