‘I live life to the fullest:’ Mother survives heart attack on 34th birthday

Doctors say, oftentimes, the symptoms are missed by women
Published: Feb. 15, 2022 at 5:20 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Women often don’t notice heart attack symptoms and health statistics show it can be especially dangerous for people of color as they are more likely to have high blood pressure but less likely to have it under control.

Caress Clegg’s 34th birthday was meant to be a celebration with friends, family and her five-year-old daughter but when it came time to eat, something was wrong.

“The first thing I noticed was the heart pain,” said Clegg. “It was right over my chest.”

Heartburn, she thought — nothing like what she thought a heart attack would be like.

“It wasn’t the quick, sharp pain and I went down. It was more of a pounding pressure that was building in my chest as if a brick was there being pressed down.”

It didn’t take long for other symptoms to set in. Suddenly, the people around Clegg started to sound like they were talking underwater and her vision seemed foggy. Still, she ignored the signs and went home.

Doctors say that’s an important lesson for all women experiencing a heart attack because oftentimes, the simple signs are missed.

Doctors say that's an important lesson for all women experiencing a heart attack -- because...
Doctors say that's an important lesson for all women experiencing a heart attack -- because oftentimes the simple signs are missed.(CDC)

“Women tend to not present as typically as men,” said cardiologist Dr. Sunil Iyer. They are also more likely to have it at rest, more likely to have it with emotional or mental stress.”

It wasn’t until a pre-scheduled visit to the doctor’s office the next day that Clegg would learn what was really going on.

“He’s like, ‘We just got your labs back and they’re showing signs of a heart attack,’” said Clegg. “That is probably the scariest thought you ever have as a parent — knowing there could be a world where your child grows up without you.”

Clegg lost her father to a heart condition when she was just 12. She doesn’t want to put her daughter in the same situation.

“It required me to make changes in my life. I exercise more, I work [less], I surround myself with people who make me want to be more active.”

Now, she’s healthier than ever — with a message to women to pay close attention to their bodies because life could change in just a heartbeat.

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