My path to become a fierce advocate for women’s heart health and living a heart healthy lifestyle only recently developed following a Wake-up Call! I am still shocked that it took a personal episode of a failing heart to rattle my ignorance and lack of knowledge about women’s heart health, let alone my own.
Instead of going home after a visit to my doctor and despite a normal EKG (Electrocardiogram) I was driven to the ER (Emergency Room) and subsequent cardiac unit. After numerous tests, including an Angiogram, the final diagnosis: Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy, also known as Broken-Heart Syndrome. What? I had never heard of that heart condition. Shock and disbelief!
How could that be? A heart failure? I only went to the doctor to get some treatment before a cough got worse and my heavy chest would tighten up more. I thought I might have the flu or a chest cold or maybe a bronchitis brewing. My chest somewhat felt heavy only when I went upstairs. I had not even paid attention to a weird slight tingling sensation around my left elbow until the doctor asked whether I felt pain in my left arm. This happened in 2013.
Why Was I so Shocked?
Being healthy meant, as I understood it, managing your life, staying active, caring for others, exercising, focusing on healthy nutrition, and maintaining your weight. I paid reasonable attention to nutritious foods, never smoked and only occasionally enjoy a glass of wine. I had no family history of heart disease. Yet, I had a critical heart event as my heart was failing.
Prior to the event I had noted for several weeks that something felt not right. I had very low energy, everything became an effort and I could not sleep well. The last was on my mind to go to the doctor. I reasoned: “Maybe allergies are flaring up, or a flu is brewing, or I need more sleep; or maybe age is catching up, or I just need an extra good workout in the gym.” So I pushed harder during a 10K training for an upcoming race. All my efforts failed and I felt increasingly worse until I started coughing and had difficulty breathing. I finally went to the doctor as mentioned earlier and ended up in the cardiac unit.
Professional Background Experience
The most humbling realization was that I had devoted nearly 45 years of my professional career in health care services, specializing in adult and community health. My knowledge and experience expanded in depth and breadth throughout the years in practice, conducting workshops on issues related to adult health, teaching, research and program development as a Primary Care Adult Nurse Practitioner with a doctorate in Public Health. Yet, I knew very little about the crucial issues related to women’s heart health as the research was absent.
I retired from the University of Hawaii at Manoa as an assistant professor in 2002 and never thought about my heart or my gap in understanding women’s heart health. I enjoyed a healthy lifestyle, enjoyed the outdoors, ran a few races and biked extensively. In other words, I considered living a healthy lifestyle except I never paid attention to my aging body, pushed harder when tired instead of balancing life, and defied aging.
This changed drastically after my heart episode. I woke up! I searched every source on women’s heart health: the science literature and all current credible information and health discussions. I summarized my findings in my recently published book: The Smart Woman’s Guide To Heart Health – Skillfully Manage Three Major Heart-Health Risks!
Search for Knowledge and Understanding About Women’s Heart Health
When I learned that over the last two decades 90% of reported cases of Takotsubo are among women ages 58 to 75 – my age group – but so little is known and understood about it, my curiosity rose. Why do we know so little about this type of heart failure and what are the cardiac research findings? After 30 years of massive public education and information about heart disease, where is the gap?
My search intensified with further revelations. Heart disease today:
- The #1 cause of death in America, for both men and women.
- Is #1 killer of women, even more than all forms of cancer combined.
- The cause of all deaths among 1 in 4 women.
- Will affect half of all women by the age of 60 unless we reverse the trend.
‘Unless we reverse the trend’ was the statement that caught my fire. And so my journey began to learn and understand everything I could about women’s heart health. It became a personal conviction to counter my ignorance. I owed it to my beautiful and healthy three granddaughters, and their parents to do all I can to inform so they don’t become the 1 of 4 women dying prematurely of heart disease or a statistic of #1 cause of death.
When I found out that cardiac research has not caught up with the rising trend or why the alarming gender differences exist, and what specifically are the unique issues related to women’s heart disease, my personal quest turned into a mission to share all I learned not only with my family but with as many women as I can reach. And, it is equally important that men are informed of gender-specific heart health issues.
The Good News
Once I had a grasp and understanding of women’s heart health issues as we know them today, my shock and personal fear about the trends turned into hope and confidence. I learned from the health science literature that we woman CAN significantly take control of our life to live a heart healthy one:
- We can reverse the devastating killer trend!
- We can become pro-active in managing our lifestyle, often with only small adjustments!
- We can learn to become our own skilled lifestyle manager to live a heart healthy life!
- We can demand and fight for filling the void of women’s heart health research!
And so my mission began to spread the knowledge I gained, empower and encourage women to take control of their heart-healthy life.
I hope you will join me and enjoy all I have to offer as I am developing all means of communication via publications, internet, web-programs, Facebook, live workshops in the community, and private consultation.
God willing my health and capacity will hold up long enough to be there for many women and men as well to inform, empower, and guide you to become your own heart health lifestyle manager. It’s all about strengthening a sense of well-being and prevent critical health events.
To a Healthy Heart 4 Life!