Marilyn Norton was getting ready for work when suddenly, her skin felt clammy. She was shaky, nauseated, out of sorts. Her head began to hurt. She attributed the feelings to low blood sugar and decided to make time for breakfast. Her husband suggested they go to the hospital. Instead, she went to work.
Continuing to feel poorly for the next few days, she went to her doctor. A treadmill stress test detected an abnormal heart rhythm. Her doctor scheduled a second stress test.
“I got nervous,” says Norton, 64. “I come from a family with a horrible heart history. My grandfather, mother, father, sister, and brother all said they didn’t feel well and then fell over. How close had I come?”
The second stress test was also abnormal. The next step was an injection of adrenaline, which caused Norton’s arteries to constrict. A subsequent angiogram confirmed that she has angina, chest pain or discomfort that occurs when the heart does not get enough blood.
“Now I go to the Cardiac Rehabilitation program in the Peninsula Wellness Center,” says Norton. “I walk on the treadmill. If I get my heart up to a certain rate, it will trigger my angina, but I have a heart-rate monitor, so I’m now in control. I take a statin for cholesterol, plus medicine to help keep my arteries open, and nitroglycerin in case I have angina. I consider this my wake-up call.”