Earlier this week, I was the guest of my friend D’s at the American Heart Association’s South Sound Go Red for Women Luncheon. I attended the Go Red luncheon last year and had a fabulous time.
I bid on a silent item (a yoga package–I lost), took a picture with my friend T, and then found our table to take a group photo at the photo booth.
But the best part of the luncheon happened after we sat down, started eating, and the formal program started.
The keynote speaker, Jay Bates, delivered an incredibly moving story about his wife’s battle with heart disease. Jay and his wife, Krista, are runners. When Krista was in her early 40s, she decided to start training for a half-marathon. She was seemingly as healthy as could be–not only was she physically fit, but she ate healthy and didn’t smoke. In the midst of her training cycle, Krista began to feel nauseated and dizzy. She called a neighbor friend to ask for advice, and her friend told Krista that she was having a heart attack.
Thank God Krista’s friend knew the signs of heart attack in females and called 911.
Krista was taken to the hospital, where she underwent surgery. An artery to her heart was 99% blocked. A stent was placed, Krista rehabbed, and–contrary to the belief of her therapist–was able to run five miles only twelve weeks after suffering her heart attack.
And Krista kept going up. She continued to run to stay fit. Last December, however, she suffered another heart attack. This time, she went into cardiac arrest when she was running at a gym (coincidentally, the same gym where I work out with my personal trainer, Ruth) and she received emergent treatment very quickly.
Today, only a few months after her second heart attack, Krista isn’t running, but she stays fit with walking.
I read Jay and Krista’s story in the local paper earlier this week and it scared the heck out of me. Hearing Jay speak in person calmed me somewhat and motivates me to stay on top of my cardiovascular numbers (blood pressure, cholesterol) and myself and the women in my life about the warning signs of heart attack in females.
Despite the fact that heart disease is the number one killer of American women, most women do not understand the risks of heart disease–or know the signs of heart attack–in females. About 43 million women are affected by cardiovascular disease, and 90% (!!) of women possess one or more risk factors for stroke.
Krista could be me. I could be Krista. And not to freak you out, but you could be, too.
At the end of the luncheon, I approached Jay and Krista and told them how much their story touched me, not only as a woman, but as a runner. They were so kind and open, and really want to get the word out in order to improve outcomes.
In addition to sharing their story with the local press and American Heart Association, Jay and Krista have organized the Run 4 Her Heart 5K to raise funds for GoRedforWomen.org (as well as a local high school track team). The third annual Run 4 Her Heart took place last month.
Please know the warning signs of heart attack in women, and pass them along:
- Chest discomfort
- Discomfort in other areas of the upper body (such as the arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach)
- Shortness or breath with or without chest discomfort
- Other signs: breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, lightheadedness
Although chest discomfort is still the most common heart attack symptom, women are more likely than men to experience the other common symptoms listed above, particularly shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, and back or jaw pain.
And, to quote Jay, “know your numbers.” Even if you’re just in your 30s, have your doctor check your cholesterol. Know your blood pressure. Don’t assume that, because you’re young (or youngish) and physically fit, you won’t be a statistic.
Has heart disease affected you or anyone in your life?