She Knew Something was Wrong with Her Heart - Veterans Health Administration
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She Knew Something was Wrong with Her Heart

Woman sits working clay on a potter's wheel

With a history of good health, Yost knew something was wrong. Photo by Joshua Simons/SUNY New Paltz

By Claudie Benjamin
Thursday, February 5, 2015

You know your body better than anyone. And when clinicians encourage you to speak up, that’s a good thing to do. Consider Vietnam-era Marine Corps Veteran Margaret Yost, who felt something was wrong with her heart, asked for an EKG and found out she was right.

With a history of good health, Yost first knew something was wrong when she was standing in her yard on a weekend afternoon in 2012. “My heart started pounding and racing. I went inside, sat down and considered what to do.” She went to her nearest VA at Castle Point in the Hudson Valley and insisted she had to have an EKG.

Describing Yost’s care at VA New York Harbor Healthcare System (VANYHHS), Cardiologist Dr. Rosemarie Gambetta, said, “Ms. Yost was referred to VANYHHS, a regional center for cardiac care. She was found to be in atrial fibrillation. This is an abnormal and irregular heart rhythm in which the electrical signals that are generated in the upper chambers of the heart do so in a chaotic and rapid rate.

“Common symptoms such as what Ms. Yost experienced are palpitations and shortness of breath. Due to her active lifestyle she opted to do a catheter ablation which is an invasive technique that involves a catheter with an electrode at the tip which uses radiofrequency waves to destroy abnormal heart tissue, rather than traditional rate control with medications.”

 They are fantastic. I was alone in this and felt I could call them at any time. 

Under the leadership of Dr. Scott Bernstein, an electrophysiologist at VANYHHS, Yost was successfully treated with restoration to normal rhythm.

Yost is deeply grateful for the care she received from the cardiac team. “They are fantastic. I was alone in this and felt I could call them at any time. They were there for me.” Today, Yost is feeling fine and has added riding a stationary bike twice a week to her physical health routine, and practices alternative medicine complementary to traditional care.

She continued to work throughout her treatments and today is as busy as ever, engaged as a ceramics professor at Pace University, creating her own art in clay and working in the yard of her home in Ulster County, New York.

Recently, she had a one-woman show at Pace, the first exhibit there ever devoted to an artist who works in clay. Yost never doubts for a moment that continued good health makes the life she enjoys possible. “I do a lot of heavy lifting in the studio,” she says.

VA is “Going Red” for Women

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women.

VA and the American Heart Association’s “Go Red for Women” program have teamed up to fight heart disease in women Veterans and VA Employees.

Heart disease can be prevented through healthy lifestyle choices, including healthy eating habits, exercise, and stress management.

Smiling women wearing red t-shirts exercise outside


Tips for Reducing Your Risk of Heart Disease

  • Report pain or discomfort in chest, left arm, shoulder, neck, or back to your doctor.
  • Exercise (such as walking, dancing, bicycling, swimming, rolling in your wheelchair) for 30 minutes, five or more days a week (make sure your provider approves any exercise regimen).
  • Manage stress through exercise, meditation, yoga or other therapy.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Reducing your weight by just 10 percent can decrease your risk of heart disease.
  • If you smoke, QUIT now.
  • Control your blood pressure. A healthy blood pressure is less than 140/90.
  • Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains but low in fat, cholesterol and salt.
  • If you are diabetic, keep your blood sugar under control.
  • Get regular health screenings. See your health care provider to have your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol checked.