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This healthy, experienced runner had a heart attack during the marathon in New York

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. However, it is easy to believe that it does not affect you when you are young, eating well and exercising frequently. That's what Kristie Elfering, who has been an enthusiastic runner for years, thought she had a heart attack during the TCS New York City Marathon . Minnesota's 41-year-old resident tells SELF that she has "always run as a form of exercise," but has been actively participating in races and triathlons since 2010. She has since completed an Ironman race, a 100-mile trail run, and even several times the US Triathlon National Championships. Elfering's father died of a heart attack at the age of 51

, and both her father's parents died of heart attacks. "However, I never had symptoms or signs that I had a heart problem that I should be aware of at this age," she says. "I also thought that my diet and the level of my physical activity were higher than my grandparents, and I did not have to worry."

That changed around mile 15 in November during the New York City Marathon.

Elfering says her marathon started as usual, but "during the mile 15 I thought I was hot," she says. As my friend and I crossed the Queensboro Bridge, I looked at the clock and was surprised to see that the last mile was slower than the other miles. After that, I can not remember anything until I woke up in the hospital.

Her friend later told her that it looked like she was bending down to tie her shoe. When she realized that Elfering had collapsed, she called for help. By chance, Ted Strange, a geriatric physician in New York, ran by and stopped. Dr. Strange later told CBS News that Elfering had no pulse, and so he began CPR treatment and requested a defibrillator a machine that supplies electrical power to the heart. Try to correct a heartbeat or to start the heart. Paramedics and members of the FDNY came to help and it took four attempts with the defibrillator to resuscitate Elfering.

Elfering does not remember that there was any other indication that something would happen prematurely. "I only remember thinking that our pace had slowed," she says.

Courtesy of Kristie Elfering

Elfering during a 100-mile ultra-marathon trail race

Elfering woke up at the hospital and spent four days in the hospital coronary ward (CCU) before she was released. But she would be back in a few days.

Her doctors wanted her to spend another week in New York before she flew home, and they sent her home with a portable defibrillator . "I felt good and even went to museums and other tourist attractions," she says. But days later she had a second heart event in the car. "The defibrillator saved my life a second time," she says. "The portable defibrillator shocked me several times and kept my heart racing until the ambulance arrived." She was taken to hospital again, where she stayed for nine days.

During this visit, physicians implanted an internal defibrillator implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), a battery-powered device that is connected to the heart. If a patient has abnormal heart rhythms, the ICD device will deliver an electric shock to restore a normal heartbeat, according to the American Heart Association .

It is frightening to think that an otherwise healthy person may have a heart attack, heart attack, seemingly out of nowhere, but these situations do occur.

There are a few reasons why an unexpected cardiac event may occur. Jennifer Haythe, Co-Director of Columbia University Women's Heart Health Center Irving Medical Center and Cardiologist NewYork-Presbyterian / Columbia, tells SELF. In most cases, she says, this is due to undiagnosed coronary heart disease leading to a heart attack. In coronary heart disease, plaque builds up and narrows the arteries and in turn interferes with blood flow to the heart, as the Mayo Clinic explains. If a coronary artery is completely blocked, it can lead to a heart attack. (Elfering learned she had a complete block after a heart attack in a lower artery.)

It's not uncommon for a heart attack to occur during a stressful event, such as a marathon, because the heart has to work harder during vigorous exercise, says dr. Haythe. Haythe also points out that an undiagnosed heart problem can cause an abnormal heart rhythm, which in some cases can cause a sudden cardiac arrest .

There are many factors that affect cardiac events "Genetics definitely has a role," says Sanjiv Patel, MD, cardiologist at MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, opposite SELF. A family history of heart disease increases the risk of her suffering from heart disease . Therefore, he recommends that you be examined by a doctor – even if you have no symptoms – if you had a sudden death in the family at an early age, had heart disease, or the heart was weak in a younger age.

Dr. Haythe strongly recommends that you ask your doctor for an electrocardiogram (ECG), echo sounder, or a stress test – all of which can help determine if something is going on in your heart and help you take the appropriate steps to get yourself continue to protect (such as adjusting your diet and exercise habits). Moving forward.

Of course, this just because you have a family history of heart disease, not that you are guaranteed to have the same health problems. But if you want to learn about the risk factors and symptoms that you should be aware of, the key to protecting your health.

It is also important to understand the various options that can represent heart attack symptoms, as they are not all obvious to women.

As SELF already reported many people assume that you have to have severe chest pain to have a heart attack, which is not the case. Other, vague symptoms include chest tightness or pressure; fatigue; Shortness of breath; sudden sweating; or pain that radiates to other parts of the body such as the arms, jaw, shoulder or neck.

That said, it's not uncommon to have no warning signs of a heart attack, Dr. Patel. "Some people are lucky enough to have warning signs like dizziness, but not everyone," he says. Therefore, "if you have a family history of heart disease, you should be examined," Dr. Patel.

And if you ever feel that something is not feeling right, you are not sure if it is serious or not, do not hesitate to consult a doctor – consult your doctor.

Elfering is now working with a medical team in Minnesota and she hopes to return to her active lifestyle soon.

"I have limitations on the activity and movement of my arm, which is difficult for me to follow because I like being active," she says. She also discovered that she had a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of her heart and with so many unknowns about her health. "I'm used to having my body and my life under control, and at this point, it feels beyond my control," she explains. Elfering is not allowed to drive, so she has to rely on family and friends to get seats. "I've grown from a very independent person to a person who depends on others," she says. "Everyone is happy to help and support me, but I'm not used to being in that position."

Ultimately, she wants to encourage people with a family history of heart disease to "take it seriously, and at least one Initial to have conversation and baseline established with a specialist in the medical field. I've always thought this might be a problem for me, but I never imagined at that age.

She also hopes her story will inspire people to be certified in CPR . "You never know at what point in your life you could meet someone who needs help," she says.

Courtesy of Kristie Elfering

Elfering competing in a triathlon

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