Heart health is on Leslie Morgan’s mind


By Sue Cody


Leslie Morgan 2When Leslie Morgan was walking on the beach, her chest felt funny and she had shortness of breath, but she didn’t think much of it. After all, she’s healthy, vegetarian, gets lots of exercise. She had some indigestion, but didn’t want to inconvenience her husband. But when the shortness of breath got worse over the course of a few days, she decided to see her doctor.


“The doctor did a stress echo test, and I failed,” Morgan says. She was immediately scheduled for four-way coronary bypass surgery. She had never been in the hospital and she was scared, she says. That was two years ago.


“My story is not odd,” Morgan says. “Like a lot of women, I didn’t pay attention.”


Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women. In the United States, 1 in 3 women get heart disease and the ratio in men is 1 in 4, Morgan says.


“Women are in denial more than men,” she says. There is a special need to educate women in the 26- to 50-year-old age range. “After age 50, more women think of a heart attack.”


Women rarely suffer the dramatic, sudden “Hollywood Heart Attack,” that men do, Morgan said. Women’s symptoms are often more subtle.


Symptoms for women might include:

• Chest discomfort

• Upper body discomfort in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach

• Shortness of breath

• Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting

• Nausea, vomiting or cold sweats

• Feelings of anxiety fatigue or weakness – unexplained or on exertion


Wellness Fair 1Getting the word out


Morgan looks the picture of health as she hands out pamphlets for WomenHeart at wellness fairs, staff meetings or chambers of commerce. WomenHeart is a national organization for women living with or at risk for heart disease. A chapter is sponsored by the Cardiology Clinic at Columbia Memorial Hospital (CMH) in Astoria.


“I have heart disease,” Morgan says. “You have to pay attention to it for the rest of your life.”


After her heart surgery, Morgan found it very helpful to participate in cardio rehabilitation. She was surprised that only about 20 percent of women go to rehab, while about 80 percent of men do. It was helpful to have a someone monitoring her heart rate while she worked on a fitness routine.


“I could go a little faster on the treadmill with someone watching. That eliminated the fear factor. It was so reassuring to have someone there saying you’re going to be fine,” she says.


When it comes to heart disease, Morgan says, women are under-researched and under-diagnosed. “Eighty percent of women’s heart attacks could be prevented with a healthy lifestyle.”


Morgan says women should talk to their doctor or care provider and get a baseline for risk of heart disease. Everyone should check their blood pressure, cholesterol, weight and other risk factors. Many resources are available through health plans, wellness fairs or by calling 211.


“It basically comes down to a healthy lifestyle,” Morgan says. “It is important to get this information out to the community. People might recognize symptoms in themselves or in others.”


If you think you are having a heart attack, call 911 within five minutes of the start of symptoms.


“Pay attention!” Morgan says. “Your body will tell you something is wrong before your brain kicks in.”


Information packets will be available in the lobbies at Columbia Memorial Hospital on Wear Red Day, Friday, Feb. 5. On that day, people are asked to wear red in support of spreading women’s heart health awareness. February is American Heart Month.


For more information, visit www.womenheart.org.