Did you know? Hypertension is the most predominant risk factor for heart failure in Blacks, and aggressive management of hypertension may substantially reduce the incidence and consequences of heart failure in our community.
Hypertension can be caused by high blood pressure, high-stress levels, family history, obesity, and excessive alcohol. All of which can lead to heart disease or stroke. We got a chance to sit down with Denise Huntley-Neal, a 56-year-old mother of four and grandmother of two. She knows about the defeating lifestyle but has since turned her life around to manage her congestive heart failure. Here’s her story:
Give us a little background of how and when you were diagnosed with congestive heart failure.
Well, I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure in 2007. One day I just woke up after working a full day of work, I cooked and cleaned and everything the night before. I felt like I had the flu or something or real bad stomach pains, I didn’t know what was happening so I just laid down for a few minutes. When I woke up, I was in full arrest. I couldn’t catch my breath, I couldn’t breathe. I was just really, really ill.
So, I decided to go to the emergency room. I actually drove myself to the emergency room and when I got there, they were asking me all kinds of questions, like did I think I was pregnant, what was going on with this and that. Because I didn’t even realize at the time my ankles were swollen, my hands, everything was swollen.
After asking me a series of questions and running some tests, finally, they came back and gave me a water releaser called Lasix, intravenously (IV) to remove the water out of my body. So, I was hooked up to an IV while I was in the emergency room to release the water because it was just that much fluid in my body. I just remember going up and down the aisle with this IV rolling it to the bathroom, like every five minutes.
So, they finally admitted me into the hospital and they put me on the cardiatrics floor. I had to be in my 40s and the cardiac doctor peeked his head in, saw me, then looked back out and said “You’re like the youngest person on this floor, what’s going on?”
He told me that my heart was functioning at less than 30 percent and most of my heart was damaged from the fluid, the valves not defibrillating properly, and my pumping chambers being off. After speaking with him, I didn’t realize that I had done all this damage.
RELATED: What Is Congestive Heart Failure?
What were your initial thoughts when they told you your heart was essentially failing?
Well, as a young mother, all I could think about was who was going to care for my kids. What am I going to do? Am I going to die? All kinds of things were going through my mind. Am I going to have to have a heart transplant, surgery? It was just very scary.
Looking back, what were some of the early signs that you think you may have missed?
Of course, being a single parent, not taking care of myself. The stress of work, I had a high-stress job and I know stress is out there and it’s inevitable, I know you have to deal with all those stressors at some point but when you’re a single parent, it’s worse because you have to