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Listen to your body

Sarah Lockett was told her symptoms were probably the result of too much coffee or stress. She now knows she should have listened more closely to her body.

While most of us were putting our feet up for Christmas last year, Sarah Lockett (above left) was grappling with a strange set of physical symptoms.

She had been experiencing fatigue at the gym and her heart had been thumping harder than usual.

The doctor gave her an electrocardiogram and told Sarah, who is 52, that her problems were probably the result of too much coffee or stress.

Then on December 23, she was hit with back pain, a numb left arm and sweating.

Sarah’s partner Eleanor rushed her to an Accident and Emergency in Hamilton fearing the worst – that she was having a heart attack.

“But the doctor said I was having a muscle spasm in my back, gave me anti-inflammatory pills and sent me home.”

Over the next few weeks, Sarah’s back pain, numb arm and sweating returned periodically.

“I felt I had wasted people’s time and went to the chiropractor to get him to help me with my ‘muscle spasm’.”

On January 9, Sarah suffered a heart attack while hosting friends for dinner at her Cambridge home.

“None of them suspected the pain was a heart attack because my pain was always across my back and not my chest.”

Eleanor called an ambulance and, while being rushed to hospital, Sarah suddenly went into cardiac arrest.

She was whisked into theatre and operated on immediately - by none other than Heart Foundation Medical Director Gerry Devlin - and had two stents inserted.

“I received very quick and efficient professional service from Waikato Hospital, to which I shall be forever grateful. The best way for me to show my appreciation is to look after my health.”

Sarah has now stopped smoking and pays better attention to what she eats.

“One quick fix will be to halve the chocolate intake!”

She believes her heart problems were preventable.

Cholesterol is a silent killer. No matter what your body weight is, you can have high cholesterol and that is a heart stopper – get yours checked now and if you need pills, take them!”

She also strongly advises people to listen to their body.

“All I can say is you know your own body and if something is not right, stand up for yourself and push for more medical intervention. Listen to your body – if something is not right, get it checked out, don’t be put off.”

Like men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are more likely to experience other symptoms, such as discomfort in the upper back, sweating and unusual fatigue.

The Heart Foundation would like to thank Sarah for sharing her story in support of our women's heart health campaign.

Visit our womens heart health pages