I can’t stop thinking about the headline and story details in the New York Times yesterday (Nov. 26): “Job Loss Raises Threat of Heart Attack.”
According to the article, unemployment raises personal risk for heart attack by 22%, and repeated bouts of unemployment raises it still more, by up to 63% for those who’ve lost four or more jobs.
It hits pretty close to home for me. In early 2009, I was laid off from a job I’d held since 2004, shortly after I moved to Arizona. I was pretty much out of work other than occasional contract work for about 15 months, when a client hired me in mid-2010.
Earlier this year, that company was bought out by a rival who laid off most of the staff. I got a contract some weeks later but it ended after just six weeks.
Three years. Three job losses. Which increases my heart attack risk by 52%, according to what I’m reading. The findings, which come from a Duke University study, aren’t all that surprising to me. The stress of unemployment, the cycle of trying to snare an interview, the empty leads, and the feelings of inadequacy are taking a toll on my health. I can tell.
Which leads me to a second thought: it’s really, really hard for women to realize if they are having a heart attack to begin with. In August, the comedienne Rosie O’Donnell had a heart attack and barely realized it. “i took some bayer aspirin/thank god/saved by a tv commercial/literally,” [sic] she wrote on her blog. Both her arms hurt, and she felt nauseous, but she didn’t call for an ambulance.
“This can’t be a heart attack. A heart attack would feel like Mike Tyson punched you in the chest, right?” she told ABC News. “No, it felt like the flu.”
She did, however, go to a local hospital the following day where it was discovered that her coronary artery was 99% blocked. Doctors put in a stent to restore blood flow. She has since made major lifestyle and dietary changes and is working to raise awareness about heart attack symptoms in women, using her “stupid” course of action as What Not To Do.
Women, it seems, don’t have the classic heart attack symptoms such as chest pains. So most of them don’t realize when they may be having a heart attack. They are more like to experience nausea and vomiting, dizziness, shortness of breath, and oh yes, pain in the back, stomach, jaw, and lower chest.
This is all very similar to classic stress symptoms that I feel maybe once every two or three weeks when I’ve been out of full-time work.
Have I visited my doctor? Yes, shortly after my last layoff and before the insurance ran out. My heart rate is normal, as is my blood pressure. My doctor prescribed an 81 mg aspirin regimen. Will I start to think about going to a hospital the next time my heart palpates and what I hope is just heartburn makes me vomit? I have to say, I’m just not sure. I don’t have insurance; AHCCCS denied my application as I’m not at the absolute poverty line. I surely don’t want any more additional stress from a hospital bill I can’t pay.
Besides being hospitalized is just more stress. I can’t look for work, write for Examiner, and go to my part-time retail job if I’m laid up in a hospital where with my luck, I’ll probably pick up MRSA or something like that.
About a week ago, a former colleague contacted me to talk about some weight-loss product she’s taken that has, she says, really changed her life–she’s lost weight (I always thought she had normal weight), has more energy, etc. I’m glad for her. But I told her that right now my weight just isn’t a huge concern. Getting steady work is my concern. Until that happens, my health will have to be managed over the counter.
I guess I’m just as stupid as Rosie. But I bet she has better health insurance.
Here is a link to a discussion from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute that discusses heart disease in women. Please read it!