Glenda Sexauer, 59, diagnosed with heart failure 46. But with her heart health declining, it took doctors almost a year to realize what was wrong.
She had several symptoms including unexplained persistent fatigue, bloating, nausea and weight gain. Initially, she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and pneumonia before her doctor referred her to a cardiologist. She was hospitalized for several weeks and had a pacemaker and defibrillator placed in her chest. Her road to recovery took several years — she’s still on multiple daily medications and is reliant on a pacemaker — but she credits an active lifestyle for getting her through it all.
Heart failure affects about 3.6 million women in the U.S.—but studies exist between men and women with heart failure A huge difference. Nearly 50% of patients hospitalized for heart failure are women,
1 but only 25% of women are enrolled in heart failure studies. 2
After going through, Sexauer Becomes Community EducatorWomenHeart, a non-profit organization that educates women with heart disease about Signs of heart failure . This is her story, as author Erica Sweeney tells it.
I have been very active. I work out a lot, run marathons, and once biked 150 miles in 2 days. But when I turned 46, I noticed that I wasn’t like myself anymore. I have gained some weight and have been very tired. I slept a lot and felt bloated. I just know something is wrong. I went to my gynecologist first thinking my symptoms might point to menopause, but my hormone tests ruled that out. Then I researched my symptoms online and thought it might be something wrong with my thyroid. My doctor diagnosed me with the autoimmune disease Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease that causes symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain, and muscle weakness. I thought, “Okay, that’s it.”
Despite the Hashimoto’s medication, I was constantly tired. A lot happened in my life back then. My son just started college and my mother-in-law lives with us. I work as a vice president at a financial services company. My mother was also very sick. She has Alzheimer’s disease and is nearing the end of her life. So I thought maybe I was just experiencing anxiety.
Then when I lay down, I started to feel a strange feeling in my chest. It was as if I could hear my heart clucking. Some nights I had to sit up and sleep. After my mother passed away, another thing stopped me. I coughed up something that didn’t look right at her funeral. I went to my primary care doctor and told him I thought I had pneumonia. He confirmed that I had a little fluid in my lungs and prescribed medication. I never had a fever, and looking back now, it’s a big hint that I didn’t have pneumonia. No one ever thought I had a heart attack.
Then, I finally got a diagnosis of heart failure.
To celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, my husband and I are planning a trip to Hawaii. We decided to go even though I didn’t feel well. I can’t eat too much and feel sick. When we got there, I slept so a lot. After taking two steps, I had to sit down and rest. We planned all these events but had to keep canceling because I couldn’t do it – it wasn’t like me. On the day we got home, I put all my symptoms in the online health checker and it indicated I had a heart problem. We all laughed at the time because I was really healthy.