I was working as an executive at a large telecommunications firm with three children, ages four, six, and nine. No one, least of all me, was ever really concerned about my heart health because I was a young, thin female, who did not smoke. I was 39 at the time and didn't have any other risk factors. My mom was healthy and 70 years old—so everyone assumed that I would also live a long and healthy life.
One day I was attending a water aerobics class when I started coughing and couldn't stop. I still felt healthy otherwise, but I decided to see my doctor that day. I went to the local emergency room and was told that I was having a flash pulmonary edema and congestive heart failure.
I had to face my own mortality. It was a life altering event for my entire family. I was forced to live with a new sense of urgency—tomorrow is not guaranteed. I now have a new found appreciation for what is truly important. I'm blessed because I've been given a second chance.
As a woman now in my mid-forties I'm diligent about getting daily exercise and very careful about eating a healthy diet. I practice stress reduction techniques. It is very important for women to take care of themselves so that we can be here for the ones we love. So often women tend to put everyone they care for in front of their own needs and ignore the symptoms.
Given that I was diagnosed with heart disease at age 39, it is critical for me to eat a low-fat diet, get regular exercise, and take my prescribed heart medication. I now understand that having high cholesterol is what led to my heart disease. I'm actively following all of my doctor's recommendations so as to avoid any future heart problems. With heart disease—early detection, accurate diagnosis, and proper treatment are the keys to survival.
To women, I say pay attention to your body, don't just ignore the symptoms, empower yourself with knowledge—insist on proper cardiac care.