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“I feel like I’m the typical woman when it comes to the issue of heart disease. I had symptoms but just always attributed the symptoms to something else.” says Nela Edgar.

Sitting across from Nela in her beautiful home, you would have no idea she has not only suffered from heart disease herself, but also had heart disease touch many of those whom she loved. Nela’s father had a stroke when she was only 9 years old, and passed away from a stroke only ten years later at the age of 62. Years later, Nela’s late husband, David, had a sudden, massive heart attack at the age of 65 and passed away in Nela’s arms. David’s passing was a shock to the family, as Nela describes him as “very active”, someone who served on the National Board of the American Heart Association, and who had just had a clean physical examination.

Years later, Nela was blessed to find love again, but that did not make her immune from having health scares herself. Though Nela believes she has had “warning signs” for the last few years, things began to mount in July of 2019. While in Colorado visiting her daughter, Nela fainted. Then, even though Nela didn’t want the attention, sisters tell sisters.  Her Columbia daughter’s husband Taylor is a cardiologist and kindly told her she needed to see a doctor and even set up the appointment for Nela himself. Her examination with the cardiologist raised enough concern that a heart monitor was put on Nela so her physicians could monitor her heart’s activity. Days later, Nela had an episode that was later determined to be an “8 second flatline” of her heart, and it was decided that Nela needed a pacemaker.

Once the pacemaker was put in, the doctors were able to monitor Nela’s heart activity even more closely. Thanks to the pacemaker, doctors were able to determine Nela had Atrial fibrillation (commonly known as afib) and heart palpitations. These issues led to Nela having a cardioversion procedure and then an ablation procedure in January 2020. Since these procedures, Nela says she feels like “a different person”. She says she didn’t realize how tired she was before and how much her life has improved since having these procedures.

Though Nela has been through a lot in terms of her heart, she does not want any sympathy. She simply wants people to learn from everything she has been through. “Men and women need to take away from my story that it is always better to ask about health issues. Don’t try to be super independent or be afraid you’ll be seen as a hypochondriac. Don’t self-diagnose on Google, even though we all do it. Talk to your healthcare provider so they can help uncover health issues hopefully before they become a major problem.” she says.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States according to the Center for Disease Control. With February being Heart Awareness Month, please be sure to check in with yourself and think about whether you have been experiencing symptoms of heart disease. These include, but are not limited to, chest pain, shortness of breath, or pain in your neck, jaw, or throat. We are all in this health journey together and we encourage you to involve your healthcare provider so you can live the very best life possible!