Health Team

Cary woman suffers three heart attacks before age 40

Posted October 31, 2012

— Even in the prime of life, a heart attack can strike.

That's especially true for women like Jennifer Campbell, who often don't experience the classic symptoms.

Campbell, 40, of Cary, suffered three heart attacks and didn't know.

The first one happened at age 26, when she felt abdominal pains and had trouble breathing.

Her doctor thought it was just indigestion.

The second heart attack happened eight years later. It presented all the classic signs, including shortness of breath and pain in her chest and arms.

But Campbell wrote it off to the effects of smoking.

"I was just too naïve to think that, at 34, you could be having a heart attack," she said.

At age 38, while seven months' pregnant, she had trouble breathing and got emergency care.

Cary woman suffers three heart attacks before age 40 Cary woman suffers three heart attacks before age 40

"It turns out I was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy – pregnancy-induced cardiomyopathy – and I was also in congestive heart failure with a pulmonary embolism," Campbell said.

Doctors delivered her son, Nicholas, and then took her back into surgery for a triple bypass.

She had her third heart attack while on the operating table.

Looking back two years later, Campbell says she knows she missed all the warnings – and ignored all her risk factors, such as smoking, a sedentary lifestyle, being overweight and a family history of heart disease.

"It's all over my family," she said. "My father died in 2007, at 62, with a massive heart attack."

Since her scare two years ago, she's on heart medications. She's lost 20 pounds, exercises regularly.

She also shares her story with customers at the beauty salon where she works in Cary.

Every day is precious, she says.

"I just really appreciate life now," Campbell said. "You can live with heart disease. It can be prevented, and it's treatable."


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  • CestLaVie Nov 6, 2012

    mt1190: Mean? Guess you don't know truth then. Most, like you, are in denial.

  • mt1190 Nov 5, 2012

    why does everyone on this have to be so down right mean? you know the saying if you don't have anything nice to say....

  • Desiderata Nov 2, 2012

    So she was in denial of her situation, for years it seems . Many people deny health issues until it is too late to change things. Overweight, poor diet, sedentary, smoking , family history of heart disease are contributing factors. I want to feel for this lady, but she did it to herself. I take good care of me, as I have contibuting factors for many things, as do many people. Even so, you can do the right things and STILL have a heart attack, cancer,etc.

  • CestLaVie Nov 2, 2012

    Perhaps Dr. Allen Mask didn't like my comment about cutting meat, poultry & seafood from this lady's diet. Nor did he like my comment that the medical & pharma industries love people like this & others who are afraid to take matters like this into their own hands, so as to cut them out of their precious profits. Kind of like the old comment about keeping a woman uneducated, barefoot & pregnant, so she won't think for herself.

    Good job for not letting my last post fly.

  • baracus Nov 2, 2012

    I'm confused about why she thought 34 was too young to have a heart attack if she had already had one at 26.

  • annhstaples Nov 1, 2012

    Has Jennifer quit smoking? If not, free help is available to quit at 1-800-QUIT-NOW or Smoking is a strong risk factor for heart disease and heart attack. Go tobacco-free to have a healthy heart!

  • tsquaring Oct 31, 2012

    Good luck!