An estimated 42 million American women are currently living with, or are at risk of heart disease — making it the #1 killer among women in this amazing country of ours. Also, obesity is a leading risk factor and 61% of American women are overweight and obese!
In response to this rising health crisis, WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease and Nutrisystem created the Getting Red Dress Ready campaign. The campaign challenged overweight women across America living with or at risk for heart disease to get motivated to eat and live healthier lifestyles and ultimately, to get Red Dress Ready for a Red Dress Reveal on February 5th (National “Wear Red Day”) in New York City.
In July of 2009, WomenHeart selected a spokesperson team of WomenHeart Champions to conquer their weight loss and get heart healthy. All of these women are heart disease survivors struggling with weight loss and some even have diabetes. Here is one of the amazing, first-person, accounts from a Red Dress Ready WomenHeart Champion and lessons I personally took away from the transformation story:
I have been a Cardiology RN for the past 30 years. I have also been at CPR instructor for the American Heart Association for over twenty years. I work full-time. I am a wife and a mother of two beautiful daughters 21 and 17.
Three years ago, at the age of 48 (yes I am now 51), I was walking up a hill at Santa Barbara City College on the first day of the fall semester. As I was walking up that hill, I experienced some chest discomfort and tingling down my left arm. Of course, at first I thought “no way”, but I really knew better. I had been to the emergency room on two different occasions before with chest discomfort and was basically humiliated when they found nothing wrong with me. I had a series of the appropriate tests, which showed that I had ‘normal coronary arteries’. I was perplexed. I really thought that I was losing my mind, as many women feel when faced with this dilemma. I knew that something was really wrong with me. Go with your gut feeling, I did, and I think it saved my life!
Lesson 1: Go with your gut. It’s your health and if your tests come back ‘normal,’ remember that normal for one isn’t always normal for another. Don’t settle for a single opinion.
I continued to have chest pain and my doctor recommended that I go to leading female Cardiologist who specializes in Women and Heart Disease at a Cedar Sinai in Los Angeles for further diagnostic tests. It was found that I have a disease called Endothelial Dysfunction. It’s a big word for when the arteries of the heart are not functioning as they should. More women have this problem compared to men, where the arteries narrow when they are supposed to widen (for instance with exercise or emotions). I also have very small arteries, which were contributing, to my problem.
Lesson 2: Heart issues are different for men and women.
Needless to say, it took me quite a while to come to terms with this. I thought I was too educated to go through the emotional impact of this chronic disease. Looking back on the past two years, I was acting like a typical heart patient. I was the master of denial and anger. I was angry since I had spent a life of modifying my risk factors and the risk factors of others.
I am now a National Spokesperson for WomenHeart. I have lectured to many community groups and have been interviewed by free-lance writers of Time, Health, and Coastal Women Magazines. I will be the keynote speaker at this year’s “Go Red for Women” luncheon for the Tri-counties, the speech is entitled “Caution Ladies: You can ride but you can not hide.” To tailor my lectures to our community, I am having “Pinot and Prevention” parties, where I speak with groups of women in their homes, and speak about heart disease prevention in an informal atmosphere. Amazingly, the press has gobbled it up!
Lesson 4: Use your experiences to create awareness
Being diagnosed with heart disease is a life-changing event. But life does not end, it just opens other opportunities such as speaking with you today. If I helped at least one of you today, it was totally work it!
Stay tuned for more stories on other Red Dress Ready WomenHeart Champions, as well as coverage of the Red Dress Ready reveal event in NYC February 5th.