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COLUMBUS — Judy Puetz was just starting a new chapter in her life.

She was recently retired — three days to be exact — and had just returned home with her husband, Jim, from her retirement party when she was hit with a heart attack.

It started with subtle symptoms weeks prior to the party. Puetz experienced shortness of breath when walking stairs and fullness in her abdomen.

But the problems weren’t that bad, so Puetz ignored them and went about her day-to-day life. She couldn’t slight them any more on Sept. 1, 2011, the day of the party.

“We came home and started fixing dinner, and I started to feel a mid-sternal chest pain,” Puetz said.

She said it felt like a severe case of heart burn. Minutes later she had to sit down and then started sweating profusely.

Puetz, who was director of health information at Columbus Community Hospital, said she knew exactly what was happening. She was having a heart attack.

“I had done enough chart reviews to know,” she said.

The 65-year-old was taken to CCH, and later flown to Lincoln where she had surgery to have a stent in her right arterial artery to relieve blockage.

Puetz said she should have known something was wrong by the symptoms. But, because signs are different for women, it can be difficult to know.

This month, hosts of cities have been holding programs geared toward educating females on heart health and cardiovascular disease through Go Red for Women events.

More than 400 women attended the one in Columbus earlier this week, gathering $40,000 for the American Heart Association and providing resources for women about heart attack symptoms.

“Go Red for Women raises awareness for heart disease in women. Many people don’t know that heart disease is the number one killer of women in the country and Nebraska,” said Kevin Sypal of the Midwest affiliate for the American Heart Association.

Heart attack symptoms for females can differ from men, who typically experience chest and arm pain. While that commonly happens in women too, they are more likely to have shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain when having a heart attack. Other symptoms include uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the chest that can come and go; pain in both arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach; breaking out in a cold sweat and lightheadedness.

Puetz has been visiting cardiac rehab since her heart attack and has made changes in her life such as boosting her activity level and reducing stress to have a more healthy future.

The heart association suggests women get at least 40 minutes of exercise most days of the week; eating a diet high in vegetables, fruit, fiber and whole grains, while cutting down on saturated and trans fats; and maintaining a healthy body weight.

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