Christi Stringer, of Lufkin, is in her early 40s. She has great cholesterol, normal blood pressure and eats a healthy gluten-free diet. Most would consider her in pretty good health. But on August 22, 2017, Christi had a heart attack.

“It was a normal Tuesday. We were on the way home and my chest started hurting,” Christi said, assuming the pain was due to either indigestion or a side effect of a new migraine medicine. She didn’t think much about it until the symptoms worsened, and that’s when she headed to the emergency room. Before reaching CHI St. Luke’s Health-Memorial, Christi started experiencing a pain in her jaw—a classic heart attack symptom.

“Both my sister and great-grandmother had jaw pain when they suffered heart attacks, but I still had my doubts about what was happening to me.”

Christi’s sister suffered a heart attack at age 33, just two weeks after the birth of her child. Despite a family history of cardiovascular disease, Christi was shocked by the diagnosis.

“When we got into the ER, the staff immediately began assessing my condition. When the doctor said, ‘you’re having an M.I.’ (Myocardial Infarction) which means a heart attack, I was really surprised. I never thought it would happen to me.”

Christi’s left circumflex artery was more than 90% blocked. Three cascading stints were placed in her heart during a procedure at the CHI St. Luke’s Health Cath Lab.

Hormone fluctuation is thought to have caused the heart attacks in Christi, her sister and her great-grandmother. Their only risk factors were gender and possibly genetics. It is rare for someone so young to have a heart attack, especially while also being low-risk and symptom-free prior to the event, but Christi’s case proves it can happen to anyone. Theoretically her chance of recurrence isn’t as high as some, but now she takes extra precautions about her heart health.

“I see my cardiologist Dr. Ilyas Khan. I’m in the Cardiac Rehab program at CHI St. Luke’s Health, and when I have chest pains, I go to CHI for a check-up and make sure there’s nothing major going on. I take my blood pressure medicine and a baby Aspirin every day.”

Exercise is also an important part of recovery and prevention.

“My cardiologist told me to view exercise as a prescription. It’s something I should do on a daily basis like taking my pills,” she said.

Christi now shares potentially life-saving advice for other women.

“Know the symptoms of a heart attack because they can be different for women. My chest hurt, but I also had pain in my back. I’ve said you should ‘know the signs,’ but I didn’t actually know any of them except for jaw pain. Had I realized that back pain could be part of it then I would have gone to the emergency room sooner.”

Know the Signs & Symptoms

  • Chest, back and jaw pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Vomiting
  • Pain in the arms and abdomen
  • In women, a heart attack is often mistaken for the flu or acid-reflux.