NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) — According to the CDC, heart disease is the #1 killer of women in the United States. During American Heart Month, we’re warning of the symptoms and risks.

“I was feeling just not well, I knew there was something wrong,” said Claudia Miller, a Niagara Falls resident. “I was short of breath and I was exhausted. I couldn’t come back from that exhaustion.”

About four weeks ago, Claudia said she couldn’t shake her tiredness, but didn’t want to go to a hospital.

“I was supposed to be going on a trip to California that weekend,” she said, “and I just knew if I was put in the hospital, I wasn’t going on my trip.”

So instead of going to the hospital, she called Independent Health’s ‘Care For You’ program. She had been a member of the program for about two years. About once a month, they send nurse practitioners and other care team members to the homes of seniors who have chronic health conditions. It’s a preventative measure to help them stay healthy and out of the hospital. They also respond to calls day-of if someone is sick, suffered a fall, or has another problem – like what Claudia was experiencing – knowing it can be hard to get into many doctors offices same-day.

“It’s an easy phone call, and it’s right there on my refrigerator” Claudia said. “It probably saved my life.”

A nurse practitioner, Adele Burch, showed up and took her vitals. It was clear to Adele that Claudia needed to go to the hospital, but Claudia was still hesitant. So Adele called for an EKG to come to the house.

“And she said, ‘get an ambulance,'” Claudia recalled.

Claudia was in Atrial Fibrillation, or AFib. According to the CDC, symptoms include: heart palpitations, lightheadedness, extreme fatigue, shortness of breath and/or chest pain.

“About 35% of people have a stroke if they have a diagnosis of atrial fibrillation, so that’s one of the cornerstones of managing their condition is preventing future stroke,” Adele said.

Claudia spent four days in the hospital, getting her heartbeat back on track. She missed out on the California trip, but said she’s thankful she put her health first and will take the trip another time.

She encourages other women to do the same.

“Pay attention — we’re supposed to be the smarter gender here [laughs], so just pay attention to what’s going on with our bodies,” she said. “The medical resources that we have available to us in the WNY area … there’s no reason not to get ourselves taken care of.”

Kelsey Anderson is an award-winning anchor who came back home to Buffalo in 2018. See more of her work here and follow her on Twitter.