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."