PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — When it comes to matters of the heart, men and women are often different. That holds true both in love and the actual muscle that keeps you alive.

Hallice Waddell has a whole new outlook on life since having a heart attack last April.

“Every heartbeat that I have is a thank you Lord!”

Waddell is also a cardiac nurse of more than 30 years at Chesapeake Regional Healthcare.

“I know the symptoms. I teach my patients about the signs and the symptoms, but at that time, I wasn’t even thinking about any cardiac disease,” she told 10 On your Side.

She was simply bringing a couple of light bags of groceries inside and couldn’t catch her breath, she explained. “Everybody assumes if you have a heart attack, it’s a severe discomfort. That’s not true.”

Dr. Ashesh Buch, a Cardiologist, also with Chesapeake Regional, said women often experience different symptoms then men do.

Women sometimes feel:

  • Chest burning
  • Breathlessness
  • Neck, shoulder, back, arm or jaw discomfort
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Fatigue

“When they walk or exert themselves, they get the symptoms. When they stop, it goes away,” Dr. Buch said.

Women over the age of 60 are more at risk for heart attack, however, heart disease and heart attacks are becoming more common in women over age 45. Doctors say it’s important to get conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity diagnosed and under control.

In Waddell’s case, she said the only way to get rid of that shortness of breath was to put her chin to her chest.

The bottom line she said is don’t power through it. If something doesn’t feel right, get it checked out and insist if you must.

“I don’t think anybody is unreasonable when they have concerns about their health,” Dr. Buch emphasized.

Like Waddell, it’s better to be safe than sorry. “God made these bodies and they talk back to us so we have to answer the call,” she said.

You can find more information on heart health at the American Heart Association.