A yoga teacher thought she was suffering from anxiety and allergies. She had 3 heart attacks in less than a month.

A white woman, Dina Pinelli, on the beach with sunglasses, with her dog, Ananda
Dina Pinelli and her dog, AnandaDina Pinelli
  • As a yoga teacher, Dina Pinelli exercised and had a healthy diet.

  • That didn't prevent her from having three heart attacks in less than a month when she was 45.

  • She thought her symptoms were anxiety or allergies, but has learned to advocate for her health.

Dina Pinelli thought she was "the epitome of health," until she had three heart attacks in June 2020.

The yoga teacher, who was 45-years-old at the time, told Insider that her whole family made an effort to eat mostly organic, unprocessed foods after her father suffered a massive heart attack decades prior. She also meditated daily and exercised often.

But midway through her attempt to walk 5k every day for a week, she found herself draped over the treadmill with chest pain and shortness of breath. She later learned that she had experienced one of multiple heart attacks.

"I was so angry at myself for not being able to do it that I was pushing it," she told Insider. "I tried all of this positive self-talk that actually could have killed me."

Now, Pinelli is sharing her story as a volunteer for the American Heart Association's Go Red For Women "Real Women" campaign. She wants other women to know the signs of a heart attack that she missed.

Pinelli's dog saved her from her first heart attack

Since April 2020, Pinelli said she had experienced some sweating and shortness of breath when she tried to walk her new puppy, Ananda. She assumed her symptoms were caused by a combination of allergies and anxiety, but it all came to a head one night in June.

Pinelli said she woke up to Ananda licking her hands and immediately felt like something was wrong.

"I sat up in the bed and I couldn't move," she said.

She said she felt a pain in the center of her chest as if someone had beat her up in a boxing match. Her wrists and elbows ached on both sides, almost like she had finally tried to hit her opponent back but forgot to wear gloves, she said.

After 45 minutes of sweating and stretching through the pain, Pinelli said she was able to get out of bed and took an Aleve before going back to sleep.

The next day, Pinelli said she woke up feeling like she had just run a marathon: tired, foggy, and achy all over.

Her second heart attack happened less than a week later

She had her second heart attack on the treadmill less than a week after her first episode. She said she felt the same pain in her chest, wrists, and elbows — and this time, she called her doctor.

Pinelli said she has a history of anxiety, so when she spoke to her doctor via telemedicine, she was expecting to be sent on her way with a prescription for Xanax. Fortunately, the doctor was able to see her in person and opted to check out her heart with an EKG.

"They all told me, 'You're 45 and you're healthy and you're a yoga teacher, you're going to be fine,'" Pinelli said. "And I wasn't. Instead, they found a 100% blockage and they put a stent in."

A stent is a tube used to prop open an artery that's been blocked or narrowed in a cardiac crisis, according to the American Heart Association. Placing a stent can help reduce the risk of another heart attack, but some patients may need multiple procedures to keep their arteries open.

After her third heart attack, Pinelli learned to advocate for her health 

About a week after she got her first stent, Pinelli said the pain returned while she was out walking the dog with her father. Even after her previous attacks, she said she still hesitated before calling her doctor.

"I didn't want to be that hypochondriac person — the girl that cried wolf, so to speak," she said.

But Pinelli decided to listen to her body and went back to the doctor for more tests. Her EKG and troponin levels —both measures of heart function — came back abnormal, and she had her third heart attack at the hospital. She needed another stent and was prescribed beta-blockers to reduce her blood pressure.

Pinelli said her recovery was slower than she would have liked, but switching from a male doctor to a female cardiologist made "a world of difference." Her new doctor adjusted her medication and coached her through a gradual return to exercise, which Pinelli said became terrifying after her heart attacks.

Pinelli now knows to look out for her unique heart attack warning sign — wrist and elbow pain — but can sustain a running pace without worrying that her workout will kill her. She hasn't had a heart attack since, and has learned to advocate for her health.

Read the original article on Insider