3 Black Women Share the Symptoms That Led to Their Heart Failure Diagnoses – Lose Weight in Your Hips


Dixon made an appointment with her cardiologist, who gave her a series of tests. One was a positron emission tomography (PET) test, a tool that can be used to measure a person’s “ejection fraction,” or the percentage of blood your heart pumps out with each beat.8 Dixon’s ejection fraction was 17%—far below 40%, or what’s considered a normal amount—which can sometimes indicate heart failure. The cardiologist also discovered liquid pooled around her heart and lungs, and that her resting heart rate spiked far over 100 beats per minute—a condition called tachycardia, which can lead to cardiac arrest. (A normal resting heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute, per the AHA.)

Dixon’s cardiologist diagnosed her with heart failure and prescribed her a diuretic and blood pressure medication. At a follow-up appointment, doctors placed a cardiac defibrillator under the skin of her armpit to regulate her heart. “If my heart goes into one of these dangerous rhythms, it will shock it back into a normal rhythm, preventing cardiac arrest,” she explains.

Dixon still deals with some lingering symptoms, like fatigue, a racing heart, and a low appetite. But she’s hopeful about the future. “I have two kids, and I want to make breakfast for them. I want to see them off to school. That’s important to me,” Dixon says. She also visits her cardiologist regularly, takes medication to keep her blood pressure steady, and watches her sodium intake. “If I can keep this heart for as long as I can, that’ll be perfect.”

“I stopped eating, and I was sweating with a fever.”

In 2017, Latasha Haynes, 41, thought she had the flu. “I stopped eating and was sweating [with] a fever,” she tells SELF. Haynes also struggled to stay awake during the day, had difficulty breathing, and felt intense back pain.9 After a few days with those symptoms, Haynes felt so run-down that she went to the hospital.

Her health was in a more dire state than she realized: Haynes had pneumonia, myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle), and pericarditis (when the thin membrane that holds your heart in place becomes stiff, messing with the heart’s ability to pump blood). She was diagnosed with heart failure. “[The hospital staff] had me sign paperwork for medical power of attorney,” Haynes recalls. “They asked my husband if I had a will—I was worried that they were prepping for me to die.” There was fluid around her lungs, so doctors at the hospital treated the buildup with a diuretic and blood pressure medication to reduce the strain on her heart.


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