Women are notoriously bad at noticing that they are having a heart attack


We have a tendency to just tough it out. In my case you could have knocked me down with a feather, it just couldn’t happen to me. I thought I was invincible and immortal! My (disguised) surprise heart attack (heartburn) was a shock.

Who me?

Who’d have thought I’d have a heart attack? Certainly not me that was for sure, until Monday, 21st March 2016.

When I woke up sweating, feeling sick with an upset stomach and intense indigestion at midnight on Friday I thought it was caused by the takeaway I had eaten that evening. I put the tiredness down to my ruptured Achilles tendon and having to heft myself around on crutches. The tingle in my arms again I thought this was due to the crutches and a fall I had had a few days previous when I tripped and put my arms out to catch myself.

I was asked at least 6 times over the next 3 days if I wanted to go to A&E, I said no!

Everyone seemed to know I was ill except me

At one point I was just next door to the Emergency Room sitting in the fracture clinic having my cast changed to heal my ruptured Achilles tendon. Chatting away to the nurses about my awful weekend of indigestion, lack of sleep and aching shoulders and arms.

Sallie Crawley Post Heart Attack

I’m on my way to Cardiac Rehabilitation at Papworth Hospital


On Monday, late afternoon I finally gave in and went to see my GP about rotten indigestion. A routine listen to my heart and quick ECG and my doctor was telling me that I might have a stomach ulcer but was actually having a Myocardial Infarction (MI) or commonly known as a heart attack! My fear response is humour, so I laughed and said if it was alright with her I would like to go for the first option only.

Many women just don’t realise

I’m like many women who just don’t realise they’re having a heart attack. It was easy to ignore the many symptoms as I didn’t link them to be signposting of a heart attack. I didn’t want to be a bother to anyone or want to ruin the weekend. The last thing I wanted was to cause a fuss as I thought it would pass.

I was healthy and had a great diet; was fit and active with regular use of a treadmill and my martial art, Tang Soo Doo, classes (hence the ruptured Achilles so I think there might be some debate about my fitness). No diabetes, I didn’t have high cholesterol and I have naturally low blood pressure.

However, I did smoke 10 a day but didn’t believe it could happen to me.

But it did. I guess the smoking coupled with my family’s propensity for loving a good blood clot it was a recipe of disaster. My mother has had a stroke, my father pulmonary embolism and my grandparents have a history of thrombosis too.

Oh, the other thing I forgot was that being on Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) due to going into early menopause increased the risk of blood clots.

Knowledge is king

Speed is of the essence. By not getting help, leaving it will make it worse. Not only is there the risk of death but long term damage to the heart muscle that could have been avoided. If any of the possible heart attack symptoms occur – alone or in combination, and especially if they feel unusual for you, you must act straight away:

  • Anxiety
  • Chest discomfort
  • Diarrhoea
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Lack of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Pain in other parts of the body
  • Rapid or irregular pulse
  • Severe heartburn
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Weakness

The British Heart Foundation says that about 7/10 women would need to experience three or more heart attack symptoms before they’d think about getting medical help. When I look at that list I had 10/14.

My advice is – if in doubt check it out!

The medical professionals really won’t mind if it turns out to be heartburn or a strained muscle.

Don’t be a hero and soldier on. If not for yourself then for your loved ones. It is better to be safe than sorry, spread the word – it’s not always obvious left arm pain and crushing chest pain like you see on TV.

It’s better to go to A&E and get yourself checked than to be dead. Heart attacks don’t have to be fatal.


Here’s a free download for you if you’re struggling with the emotional fallout from a cardiac event.