Heart Attack Survivor Shares Inspiring Journey From Brink of Death for ‘National Wear Red Day'

Denise Castille nearly died of a heart attack five years ago. She has since found a beautiful purpose in her life.

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Our news team is decked out in red Friday for a very special reason.

NBC 5 is a proud sponsor of the American Heart Association's National Wear Red Day, which is part of American Heart Month.

The day helps to raise awareness of the starting data concerning heart disease and women. Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of women, claiming more lives than all forms of cancer combined.

Women, especially Blacks and Hispanics, are disproportionally impacted by heart disease and stroke compared to men. Cardiovascular disease kills one woman about every 80 seconds.

A Dallas woman is sharing her harrowing story from the edge of death, with the hopes of raising awareness and saving lives.

Five years ago, Denise Castille suffered a life-altering heart attack. But the entire ordeal caught her off guard.

“I was like most women, without a history of heart issues. I didn’t give any thought to my heart. Not even when my feet were swollen and looked like matching balloons or even when I had chest pain, I didn’t even think about it,” she told NBC 5.

Eventually, she made an appointment to see a cardiologist.

“The cardiologist ran tests and she declared, 'You don’t have any heart issues, you don’t have any valve issues or blockage issues,' Castille said. “I was like, ‘OK great!’”

But three weeks later she was back in a cardiologist’s office. This time, she had documentation showing everything that was happening to her, including palpitations and shortness of breath.

She said the doctor was very dismissive and wrote off the notes Denise had taken on her symptoms. She assured her nothing was wrong with her heart.

“I said, but the heart palpitations? She said, 'Hmm. It’s just stress,'” Castille recalled.

Three weeks after that, she was traveling for work. It had been a busy week and on the last day of her trip, her symptoms took a turn for the worse.

“I started experiencing this incredible pain in my chest. I started sweating profusely and had a little pain down my left arm, but I’ll be honest with you -- I dismissed it,” Castille said. “I thought it was because of a stressful week. I thought I would make it home and rest. That didn’t happen.”

Her companions called 911 and responding EMTs sprang into action. She was rushed to an area hospital with what paramedics were calling a "widow-maker" heart attack.

“Not until I got to the emergency room, the emergency room doctor shared with me, ‘You’re having a heart attack,’” Castille said. “I was completely blown away. I had 99% blockage in my left anterior descending artery.”

Since then, Castille has changed her diet, is exercising more and managing her stress. She said her life has transformed in a beautiful way.

“Hindsight is 2020. But when I think back about that, I wish that I knew more about advocating for myself,” she said. “We have to be unafraid and OK with getting a second opinion.”

Denise Castille
Denise Castille was selected as one of the 2020 Go Red for Women Faces of Heart.

She hasn’t just been an advocate for herself but for others -- especially women of color -- who are disproportionately impacted by heart disease and stroke.

She even started a nonprofit called "Fresh Start for Your Heart" and is teaching others the signs and symptoms of heart issues through educational programs and survivor support. She also takes part in leading CPR classes.

"One of the greatest lessons I’ve had is that heart disease symptoms and signs show up so much differently in women than they do in men. Typically women have symptoms of jaw pain, nausea, back pain, arm pain, and perhaps even a cough that lingers," Castille said. "And because we typically don’t have symptoms that look like the symptoms men have, we dismiss it and sometimes our healthcare providers dismiss it."

Her new book, "I Don't Want To Die Like This" is debuting this month on February 23. Click here to reserve a copy.

Denise Castille

She also hosts a podcast, Healing Hope for Your Heart, about stories of survival and eradicating heart disease one heart story at a time.

You can also learn more about Going Red for Women by clicking here.

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