‘Listen to your heart’ says 33-year-old heart attack survivor

By Robbie Owens

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    ARLINGTON, Texas (KTVT) -- Listen to your heart.

That’s the message that 33-year-old Domonique Reagan of Arlington is sharing, because ignoring her own landed her in the emergency room.

“I thought I was invincible,” says Reagan with a laugh. “My blood pressure is not high, don’t have high cholesterol.”

She doesn’t eat red meat and even got a part-time job at the gym to make it easier to stay fit.

What she now admits that she didn’t do, was listen when her body saying in spite of her healthy lifestyle, something was wrong.

“Christmas Eve,” she recalls, “I couldn’t take the pain anymore. It went from my chest to shoulder, up to my neck.”

The insurance broker and busy mother of five, says she’d imagined everything from COVID-19 to overexertion. But not a heart attack.

“I had no clue. I didn’t know what a heart attack felt like,” she admits with a laugh. “I’ve seen it on movies, but it was totally different.”

And absolutely dangerous. At any age.

“Heart disease is unpredictable,” says Carl Horton, MD, a physician at Texas Health Cleburne and Texas Health Physicians Groups, “and it can happen to anybody.”

Dr. Horton says heart attack symptoms often present differently in women– an ache in the chest, as opposed to a sharp pain, pain in the arm, and even sweating and nausea.

Researchers have noted that African American women are often are higher risk, citing both genetics and lifestyle as frequent causes, but Dr. Horton says it’s important to address any pain, regardless of the source.

“A lot of times, we manifest psychological stress in physical ways. So we do see patients that when they’re under severe stress, it can trigger heart attacks as well as chest pain, and accelerated blood pressure, so it is something that we see quite frequently.”

For Reagan, surviving the heart attack was just the beginning of a long journey back to food health. Her physician recommended what’s called “cardiac rehab.”

Still, she was stubborn.

“I was like ‘I’m young, I can snap back. I can do this on my own’.”

Then she says she got a message that could only have come from God.

“One evening I went to bible study, and one of the members was a nurse. She was telling me that one of her clients got cleared to go back to the gym. He was in his 40s… and he was working out and he wasn’t being monitored and he passed away at the gym. And so that was my cue to say `you know what it, doesn’t matter your age. You need to get yourself monitored’.”

Her cardiac rehab means that as she works out to regain her strength, her heart rate, oxygen and blood pressure are all monitored.

She’s also making changes outside of the gym, promising to “..slow down for sure. I’m a mom of five. Life is super busy. I just need to slow down.”

It’s advice that she hopes resonates with others, along with a plea to learn from her close call.

“To follow your body,” Reagan warns. “Do not do what I did. I shouldn’t be here.”

So many hearts full of gratitude, that she still is.

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