American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

LoginLogin with Facebook

Remember me Forgot Password

Be the Cure, Join Today!

  • Learn about heart-health issues
  • Meet other likeminded advocates
  • Take action and be heard

Julie Rickman Kansas

American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women announced this year’s “Real Women,” national spokespeople for the cause, and one of the nine women selected is from Overland Park, Kansas.  Julie Rickman will join group members from across the country to share their personal stories, encouraging women to take a proactive role in their health by knowing their family history and scheduling a well-woman visit.

Rickman thought she was suffering from asthma when two days after Christmas she found herself in the ER with shortness of breath and fatigue. But after sharing her family history of heart disease, doctors ordered testing that revealed two blockages, requiring a stent, and evidence that Julie had a heart attack sometime during the past month.

“If you want to watch your children grow up, know your family history and share this information with your doctor at your Well-Women Visit. Your children want their mommy in their life,” Rickman says.

Heart disease and stroke cause 1 in 3 deaths among women each year, yet they are 80 percent preventable. One risk factor that cannot be prevented is family history.

According to a recent study in the American Journal of Medical Genetics, 95.7 percent of study respondents considered knowledge of family history important to their personal health, but only 36.9 percent reported actively collecting health information from their relatives.

“Heart disease is often said to be a silent killer. It is essential that our patients don’t remain silent as well. A patient who understands their family history and shares that information with their physician is able to paint a complete picture of their health in the exam room,” says Dr. Tracy Stevens, Medical Chair of Saint Luke’s Muriel I. Kauffman Women’s Heart Center. “That complete picture is vital for accurately diagnosing and treating heart disease before it’s too late.”

Angela Baird Missouri

American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women announced this year’s "Real Women," national spokespeople for the cause, and one of the nine women selected is from Grandview, Missouri. Angela Baird will join group members from across the country and share their personal stories, encouraging women to take a proactive role in their health by knowing their family history and scheduling a well-woman visit

Angela Baird nearly died at age 24. A diabetic who kept her condition well managed, Angela’s blood sugar level spiked and she became dangerously dehydrated in 2007.  At the hospital, her condition worsened, and she was put on life support as she went into a coma. Within a week, her condition improved, and doctors performed an angiogram to determine what triggered the health crisis.  Testing revealed it was caused by complications from untreated Kawasaki disease, which Angela learned had occurred almost two decades earlier. Angela’s heart was only working at third of its normal rate. She had two blocked arteries that required emergency double bypass surgery, an aneurysm, and swollen blood vessels. There was also evidence that she’d had a previous heart attack.

At age five Angela had a swollen mouth and neck and painful joints. It was Kawasaki disease, an illness characterized by inflammation of the blood vessels and typically affects young children, although doctors said it was a virus at the time.  Throughout her teens, there were other signs that something was wrong. She had shortness of breath during exercise, which doctors diagnosed as asthma, and had several cases of heat stroke. 

The heart attack had happened two years earlier, while Angela, then 22, was volunteering in a remote village in Cameroon, without access to medical care.  When she finally got to a hospital a month later, Angela was relieved when doctors said her prolonged vomiting was probably a virus. She didn’t realize that heart attack symptoms can differ in women, and can sometimes mimic the flu.  "The experience was so scary, I didn’t want doctors to tell me anything was wrong and accepted it when they couldn’t find anything," she said. "But now I know what you don’t know [about your own diagnosis], can, in fact, hurt you."

Now a fitness instructor, Angela knows all too well that healthy eating and regular exercise are key to preventing heart disease.  She encourages women to know their medical history and manage their risk factors—from blood pressure to glucose—and protect their heart health, no matter what their age. Those factors are part of  Life’s Simple 7, a group of seven health and behavior factors that taken together can help protect heart health.

"Be proactive and know what is happening with your body," she said. "Get things checked out rather than just pushing through everything."

Owen Hunt Iowa

Owen Hunt is a character-he has a certain charisma about him of someone much older.  He is an inspiring 4 year old boy who loves to talk and tell stories, play with Legos, puzzles, his dog and, on occasion, his sister. On the outside, Owen is a very normal little boy, but on the inside he is battling heart defects and autoimmune disorders.

A few weeks after Owen was born his parents began to notice that something was wrong because he was having a lot of trouble eating and breathing. At two months old, doctors found that his aorta arched to the right instead of the left as it should and had fused with another blood vessel creating a vascular ring which was pinching his esophagus and trachea shut. To help fix this problem, Owen was operated on when he was 3 months old.

At 15 months old he had another surgery to repair another defect in his aorta called a diverticulum, which is like a "bulge" or pocket. In his short four years he has also been diagnosed with having a VSD (a tiny hole in his heart), BAV (two aortic valves instead of three), GERD/reflux, tracheomalacia (weakness in part of his trachea), structural abnormalities of his lungs, chronic bronchitis, severe eating delays, Esinophillic Esophagitis (an autoimmune reaction to food proteins), and an autoimmune disorder called PANDAS (brain inflammation caused by the body's reaction to strep virus).

Despite all of this, he is an adorable entertainer with so much enthusiasm and creativity!

For the first time in my life I’m spending a lot of time in bars.  Much to the surprise of my family, I know every bar in the community and enjoy my visits with the owners, employees and customers finding out how they deal with secondhand smoke. 

I’m Brenda Pollard, the Pocatello grassroots coordinator for SmokeFree Idaho, a coalition of businesses, organizations and individuals that believe no one should have to choose between a job and good health!

All of my adult life I have been involved in community organizations, mainly focusing on neighborhoods and community engagement.  Community organizing is a natural outcome for a party planner that loves organization and healthy living environments. 

After losing an aunt and an uncle to causes related to smoking I determined it was time to be more vocal about the devastating effects of tobacco use.  I was thrilled to find an organization where the American Heart Association, American Lung Association and American Cancer Society teamed up to advocate for the health of Idahoans.  I learned that there is NO SAFE LEVEL of exposure to second-hand smoke.  

Now I work to share that information with folks in Pocatello and Chubbuck.  I have visited small businesses, community leaders and city councils.  I present at schools, service organizations and association meetings.  I have enjoyed calling Bingo at the Senior Center, sharing alarming facts such as- for every seven people that die from tobacco use, they take one nonsmoker with them.   I promote SmokeFree workplaces at health fairs and community events, chamber of commerce meetings and fun runs. 

Some of the highlights of my work include visiting with Don Aslett at his Museum of Clean where he told me of a book he wrote titled, “Why I Would Rather Clean up after a Cow than a Smoker.”  Also, the photo booth shoot at Poky High School organized by their Idaho Drug Free Youth Club and sponsored by McCord Orthodontics where students posed with signs reading, “I Support SmokeFree Idaho.”  Currently I am working with students from each high school to promote a campaign to “Blow Bubbles – Not Smoke”  Check out the inspirational ad that inspired our theme.

We’ll be in the Idaho State University Homecoming Parade Saturday, October 17th.  Come get your free bubbles and help us blow away secondhand smoke!

[+] More Stories[-] Collapse