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Mom’s heart attack was lifestyle wake-up call

Hainesville 2/20/12
Becky Jakubowski poses for portrait her home Hainesville Monday February 20 2012.  Jakubowski 43 is heart attack survivor.

Hainesville 2/20/12 Becky Jakubowski poses for a portrait at her home in Hainesville, on Monday, February 20, 2012. Jakubowski, 43, is a heart attack survivor. | Ruthie Hauge ~ Sun-Times Media

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Women and Heart Disease Facts

42.7 million live with some form of cardivascular disease.

More than 3 million women have a history of a heart attack.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in American women.

61,256 women die annually from heart attacks.

Source: National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease

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Updated: April 21, 2012 1:15AM

HAINESVILLE — At first, Becky Jakubowski, 43, mistook heart attack symptoms for the flu.

She was attending her 25th class reunion when the Hainesville woman was hit with an upset stomach. She also felt pain reminiscent of heart burn. She slept poorly and couldn’t catch her breath.

Jakubowski also had pain in her arms over Labor Day weekend of 2011.

Her flu symptoms dissipated, but she was still short of breath until she went to the hospital on Labor Day.

“I had been healthy, but I didn’t feel bad. I didn’t really feel bad in the hospital,” Jakubowski said.

She had no family history of heart disease.

“That is what baffles me. I’m 43 years old. I didn’t think I could have a heart attack. That’s why I’m talking to anyone who will listen,” Jakubowski said.

February is Heart Health Month and an ideal time to share her story.

It’s “uncommon, but not unheard of” for women still in their menstrual years to have a heart attack, according to Dr. Ian Cohen, medical director of cardiology at Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital.

Cohen was among the physicians who treated Jakubowski when she suffered her heart attack.

“Women get under diagnosed. They have different symptoms — we’re just more aware of it. I think because of the advances in treating women with heart disease, cardiologists are more aware of it (heart disease in women),” Cohen said.

Women tend to have body aches, nausea and loss of breath. Men tend to have loss of breath, chest pain and pain in the arms.

“Women of all ages need to understand if they have traditional risk factors (family history, high-blood pressure), they are at risk for developing heart disease at a younger age,” Cohen said.

He also said that “being a young woman” doesn’t protect someone from experiencing heart problems.

He also encouraged women who are experiencing breathing problems to seek medical help rather than assume it will go away.

“Women of a young age are getting heart disease. It’s important to understand the risk profile and seek help,” Cohen said.

Jakubowski says thanks to the heart attack, she is now living a much healthier life.

Having a heart attack taught her to take some time for herself and her health. She said she was last on her list — she and her husband, Paul, have three children in grades four, eight and a high school sophomore. Jakubowski also works as a reading specialist at Oak Grove Grade School in Green Oaks.

“I’m grateful this happened, but it has been a life-changing event. I’m better for it — I’m healthier and I feel better. It was a wake-up call for me,” Jakubowski said.

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