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College athlete had a heart attack to 21: “My whole life has changed’

Molly Schroeder in the first instance, felt her symptoms were caused by the fear of losing her mother.
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On September 14, 2012, Molly Schroeder decided to go for a run for her college soccer practice.

“Friday was usually less intense days at the practice, so I wanted to get in a workout first,” Schroeder told healthline.

A passionate soccer player since she was 4 years old, was running at her standard.

“Football was my life. I was in shape and never had any complications until after that period of time,” she said.

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When Schroeder returned to her apartment, she suddenly started feeling ill.

“I took a big breath of air and I had a nasty pain in my chest, that I felt, when I exhaled, and it got worse. I felt the blood in my face draining, also. I thought I had an anxiety attack,” she recalled.

Just six weeks prior to that day, 58 years old, her mother died of a pulmonary embolism, caused by complications after knee-surgery. Schroeder in the first instance, felt her symptoms were caused by the fear of losing her mother.

However, if she was sweaty, cold, nauseous, and as her arms became numb, she knew that something else was going on, and asked her roommate to drive her to the emergency room.

“They have a EKG and the nurse said, ‘This is crazy. It gives you a heart attack, but the chances of that 1 in 100,000,'” Schroeder recalled.

After 16 hours of testing, doctors confirmed that a blood clot had made of 90 percent blockage in one of her main coronary arteries.

Because she had a hole in her heart (atrial septal defect), who was diagnosed when she was a child, that together with the blood clotting was probably the reason for her heart attack.

“When I was 12, my mother found that she had cardiomyopathy. When that happened, my brother and I went through the testing to see if we have any issues and they discovered a hole in my heart. She told me to go back in a few years to check it out, and at that time it was adopted, had closed,” said Schröder.

“I started to think my heart had healed itself, until I had my heart attack.”

After her heart attack, Schroeder was prescribed medication for the treatment of the clot. They also went through cardiac rehabilitation. Further research revealed that they have a genetic blood clotting disorder.

A new standard

Because Schröder can no longer play football, they had to find new ways to stay active.

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“My whole life was changed, and at 21, I learned how fragile life is,” she said. “I’ve already learned that after losing my mother so young, but it struck me that I am not the Wonder Woman. I had a few dents in my shield.”

Since recovering, she has become an active runner and hiker and participates in snowshoeing.

“As long as I get my heart rate under 170, to ensure there is no further damage from my heart attack, [I do cardio]. I wear a Fitbit and my heart rate constantly,” she said.

She is also aware of her intake of sodium and has grown to become a vegetarian to cut out red meat.

More importantly, she stays on top of her health, and wants others to do the same. That is the reason why she’s proud to be a part of the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women’s new class of Real Women.

As one of the eight Real Women, rural, Schroeder shares her story to educate, strengthen, and inspire other women.

“I had been waiting on my chance to be a part of the American Heart Association. It is a great way for me to connect with other women with heart disease and stroke, and for us to stand together to talk about [them], especially because it is the number 1 cause of death among women, [although] many people do not talk about it,” Schroeder said.

“I am empowered by this, because I am one of the statistics now and I never thought I would be.”

She urges the women aware of their family history of heart disease and to take it seriously.

She knew that her mother had heart problems, and that her maternal grandfather died of a heart attack in his late 40s, but she didn’t know how closely this history can impact on her health.

She also hopes young women who have no family history of heart disease and take preventive measures.

“Heart attacks can happen to anyone. It is called the silent killer for a reason that people do not realize they have it until it is too late. I was 21 years old and in the prime of my life,” Schroeder said.

“[Everyone] to take preventive measures and know your body mass index and what is the blood sugar and cholesterol.”

Know your numbers

Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, cardiologist at The Mount Sinai Hospital and medical expert for the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women movement, says that women need to have their heart health checked.

While almost 80 percent of cardiac events can be prevented, and heart disease still a woman’s greatest health threat, claiming the life of 1 in 3 women, or a woman who every 80 seconds.

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“I think Molly’s story is heart-breaking,” Steinbaum told healthline. “How can we have someone like Molly, who has a strong family history and enable her and strengthen her and give her the tools to understand that they need to be controlled aggressively, so that it can be prevented?”

To answer her own question, Steinbaum says the understanding of the following five numbers is the key to the health of the heart:

LDL cholesterol

-HDL-cholesterol

-blood sugar

-the body mass index (BMI)

-blood pressure

As the national sponsor of the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women movement, CVS Health is offering free screenings for each of these every Thursday for the entire month of February at their Minute Clinics.

Annual visit with your internist or family doctor is a other way to verify these numbers, says Steinbaum.

However, if you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, hypertension or pre-eclampsia during the pregnancy, she proposes that the search for a specialist.

“Your risk of heart disease after pregnancy and in your life goes up. Every woman should understand, not only the numbers, but also look at your family history and what has happened to you during the pregnancy. Knowing your whole story can drive you to go to someone other than your internist,” she said.

She suggests finding a cardiologist who is interested in women and heart disease and prevention.

“It is time that women get checked and do what we need to do to prevent this disease,” Steinbaum said. “Nothing else in our lives, disease-wise is to be prevented, such as heart disease and that to me is the most powerful piece of.”

This article first appeared on HealthLine.com

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