Greenville woman shares her story after a heart attack at 33

One woman gives advice after experiencing a heart attack at 33.
Published: Dec. 15, 2022 at 5:56 PM EST
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - The holidays are a time of joy and family gathering, but it can also be a time when a scary medical event happens. According to the American Heart Association more heart attacks occur during the winter holidays than any other time of year.

At the age of 33 Meliah Jefferson thought she did a good job of taking care of her body. She tried to go to the gym a few days a week and focused on cardio workouts.

“I have a strong family history of heart diseases and heart issues,” Jefferson said. “So I knew it would be a possibility for me so prior to having my heart attack I had made some lifestyle changes.”

It’s why she was so surprised when one day she wasn’t feeling well. It happened after she got out of the shower.

“I just felt incredibly tired and I was having cold sweats,” Jefferson said. “It was almost to the point where I couldn’t make it to my bathroom from my bedroom.”

Jefferson later realized she had experienced a widow-maker heart attack. This happens when there is full blockage in the biggest artery of the heart.

“Lots of people die from that and I think it is amazing that I am here today,” Jefferson said.

What really worried her was that she had a one-year old daughter.

“I thought, oh my gosh, what if I had not survived this heart attack?” Jefferson said. “That was the most traumatic for me.”

At the time of her heart attack Jefferson says she was working long hours as an attorney.

“I think stress played a large role in me having a heart attack at the time,” Jefferson said. “I was an attorney trying to make partner and a new mother.”

St. Francis Downtown Bon Secours cardiologist Dr. Daniel Green says many people don’t realize the impact of stress can have on our health.

“Stress can increase your blood pressure,” Dr. Green said. “It often causes people to make bad choices like overindulging in alcohol and it can cause you to lose sleep.

He says right after the holidays he often sees an increase of patients because they overindulge in food or drink, delay doctor appointments, are highly stressed and don’t make a plan.

“Allow yourself to enjoy the holidays, but plan out how much you are going to indulge, rather than limiting yourself and then overdoing it,” Dr. Green said.

Jefferson says she has made many changes in her life since her heart attack and tries to stick to them this time of year. Instead of doing just cardio, she has incorporated strength training.

“Not like bodybuilding, but just trying to be more conscious and have a well-rounded fitness plan,” Jefferson said.

She also lowered her salt intake, focused on more planted based food and most importantly, she made time for herself.

“For me it meant setting boundaries,” Jefferson said. ‘It meant saying no and not putting too many things on my plate.”

One way she relieves stress is reading every morning. Jefferson admits it’s still a struggle everyday, but it’s never too late to start.

“You don’t have to beat yourself up about what you didn’t do right yesterday,”Jefferson said. “You don’t even need to beat yourself up about what you didn’t do right this morning. You can start now.”

Jefferson said she was surprised by the symptoms of her heart attack because she experienced mostly fatigue and cold sweats. While chest pain is what most people associate with heart attacks, the American Heart Association reports other symptoms include shortness of breath, discomfort in the arm or shoulder, lightheadedness or nausea.