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'I was really a healthy person:' Woman diagnosed with heart disease at 27

Posted at 5:27 PM, Feb 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-09 13:00:50-05

Kelsey Gumm was 27 years old when she was hit with a rare heart condition.

"I was really a healthy person, had no history of heart disease in my family," Gumm recalled.

At the time, she had already spent a decade in the United States Navy and planned on staying another 10 years.

"The doctor came in originally and said Petty Officer Gumm I don't know how to tell you this but your career in the Navy is over," said Gumm.

She remembers the doctor diagnosing her with left ventricular non-compaction cardiomyopathy.

"That means the left ventricle of my heart is like a sponge so it never fully formed. So when I start working out my heart is beating faster, that spongy part tickles the side of my heart which sends my heart into an irregular rhythm. So my heart will go from like 60 beats per minute resting to like 180 to 200 beats which can send somebody into cardiac arrest," explained Gumm.

Gumm is now 33-years-old. She works to connect veterans to resources.

"People look at you like you're young you're healthy how do you have heart disease. Heart disease doesn't care (about) your age," said Gumm.

"More women die of heart attacks than all types of cancer combined," said Dr. Sasanka Jayasuriya, Interventional Cardiologist at Ascension Columbia St. Mary's Hospital Milwaukee.

In 2017, heart disease ranked as the second leading cause of death for all people in Wisconsin according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

But Dr. Jayasuriya says heart attacks can look different in women.

"They may just have other symptoms like jaw pain, shoulder pain, pain between the shoulder blades and there's a fair number of patients that have burning pain like gastritis," said Jayasuriya.

That difference can lead women to believe they are not having a heart attack and delaying a trip to the hospital.

Jayasuriya says in Milwaukee smoking is a big risk factor, along with hypertension, diabetes, and obesity. Unfortunately, Jayasuriya says a large number of patients do not take their medication for hypertension.

It's national wear red day-- a day to raise awareness about the top health threat to women: cardiovascular disease. According to the American Heart Association, the disease kills 1 woman every 80 seconds.

That's where the red comes in. It is National Wear Red Day, a day to raise awareness about the top health threat to women, cardiovascular disease. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the disease kills 1 woman every 80 seconds.

Gumm now works closely with the AHA hoping to help others.

"If I can show people that at my age you can have heart disease but still live a healthy life that might inspire somebody give somebody help to push past the initial diagnosis, be able to do great things with it," said Gumm.

Heart attacks and cardiovascular disease can be prevented. Doctors say know your family history, stay active, and watch risk factors like diabetes and high blood pressure.

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