Katie Adams started experiencing pain in her left arm after giving birth to her fourth child but didn’t think much of it, chalking it up to sore muscles from holding her newborn.
That was until she got ready to leave the house for the first time since her daughter, Abigail, was born, and the now 38-year-old found she couldn’t breathe.
“I felt like I was suffocating,” Adams, of Simpsonville, Kentucky, told TODAY. “The left side of my face and tongue were tingling. It was very, very scary.”
During her last pregnancy, Adams took blood thinners for a tear in her artery and while the medication helps to prevent heart attacks, she was convinced she was having one. Next thing she knew, she was in the emergency room.
Adams was right; she was indeed having a heart attack. She suffered a spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD), which is quite uncommon.
“I was kind of in shock,” she said. “SCAD is very rare but is the number one cause of heart attack in women under 50 or who are pregnant or postpartum.”
Adams lives with fibromuscular dysplasia, a condition that weakens her arteries, and while much of that is out of her control, she realized what she could control: her lifestyle choices.
“I was a mindless eater, eating from my kids’ plates or cleaning my own plate,” Adams said. “I needed to really adjust my habits.”
At 289 pounds, she decided to take charge of her health.
While in recovery, she was able to lose 46 pounds by focusing on eating more nutritious foods and paying attention to her intake.
“I couldn’t exercise. I couldn’t even cook for myself. I felt pretty helpless,” Adams said.
When her weight loss reached a plateau, she turned to Weight Watchers for extra support and soon enough, she was losing weight again.
Adams wasn’t sure how’d she manage but as she grew stronger and empowered, she decided to start incorporating exercise into her daily routine.
“I started focusing on all the things I can do. Most people can walk,” she explained. “I would do 10-minute walks. Over time it evolved to 30-minute walks and doing weightlifting.”
Adams has lost 55 pounds since she started the WW program and now weighs 188 pounds.
She hopes to reach 159 pounds eventually, but for her now her goal is to stay active and healthy in order to keep her heart strong.
“By treating my body well and respecting it and making sure I am giving it what it needs, I can live a happy and healthy life, even with having a chronic illness,” Adams said. “My arteries may be weak, but I am strong.”