DEBUG: cgb/block-vb-title

American Heart Association

Behind the Scenes, Part II

DEBUG: core/paragraph

If there's one lesson we've learned from our work with the American Heart Association, it's the importance of putting our health at the top of our to-do list. With heart disease being the #1 killer of women worldwide, we've made a commitment to pay attention to any symptoms and address them head-on. Here, we share three more stories of women who have experienced cardiology issues, whether through their own journey or in helping others, and are active advocates for heart health. Read on for their personal accounts and don't forget that, from now until the end of March, every veronicabeard.com order will donate a portion of proceeds to the American Heart Association’s Life is Why campaign.

DEBUG: cgb/block-vb-small-header

Darlene Anita Scott, Survivor

DEBUG: cgb/block-vb-two-column

Tell us your connection to the cause…
I was diagnosed with heart failure in 2016 at the age of 41. I was practicing what would typically be considered a "heart-healthy" lifestyle—I ate a whole-food, plant-based diet and exercised regularly. In fact, at the time of diagnosis, I was training for my seventh marathon. So, the diagnosis was especially alarming. Since diagnosis, I have participated in a lot of advocacy work to encourage us to know our individual health baseline—the standardized patient is not necessarily your standard—and to encourage women to be engaged and empowered consumers of care.

Your first doctor blamed your heart failure on high blood pressure. What led you to trust your gut and push for a second (and then third) opinion?
I think because I had been taught body awareness by my mother growing up and also, in adulthood, I had come to know my body—through the act of running especially—and I was highly attuned to its responses to shifts. The additional opinions after my initial diagnosis were because I needed a "why." And because I believed that if I only managed the symptoms of my diagnosis and not the root, my outcome and prognosis would be poor.

DEBUG: cgb/block-vb-blockquote

“Since diagnosis, I have participated in a lot of advocacy work to encourage us to know our individual health baseline—the standardized patient is not necessarily your standard.”

DEBUG: core/paragraph

What’s your advice on how to be a better advocate for your health?
I think it's so important to know your normal so that if anything is "off," you can address it promptly—and with data. I remember running friends who were surprised when I told them my first clue was that my pace had changed—for some the pace was fast; for others, it was slow compared to their normal. I knew what my normal pace should have been and it wasn't that!

DEBUG: core/paragraph

Also, if you're not getting the answers that you want, don't be afraid to ask again, if necessary, and to ask someone else and someone else after that, if need be. That may require an investment of money and time, but you're worth it.

DEBUG: cgb/block-vb-small-header

Dianne Ruiz, Survivor

DEBUG: cgb/block-vb-two-column

Tell us your connection to the cause… 
My journey with the American Heart Association began in June of 2020 when I finally got to see my cardiologist, who suggested I look the organization up and possibly participate in their yearly Heart Walk. Once I did, I was absolutely excited to learn more about this wonderful association and what it means to so many people around the world. I was born with pulmonary stenosis and had surgery for it when I was about a year old and have gone to see a cardiologist almost every year since the procedure. Thankfully, I have been able to keep my heart healthy and happy.

Is there an aspect of the mission you’re particularly passionate about?
I am passionate about getting the Latin community more educated about heart health and how very important it is to their everyday lives. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Hispanic women, and that is very alarming. I know growing up in a Hispanic home, when it came to health insurance or even keeping up-to-date with doctor appointments, there was always hesitancy due to financial issues or assuming it would cost you an arm and leg to simply visit a doctor. I want to help get rid of that fear and make it easier for those in the Latin community to feel comfortable and unafraid to get a check-up… especially when it comes to their heart. I will support any organization that is as passionate about this topic as I am and would love to come up with a solution to spread more awareness.

DEBUG: cgb/block-vb-blockquote

“I am passionate about getting the Latin community more educated about heart health and how very important it is to their everyday lives.”

DEBUG: core/paragraph

What are some healthy lifestyle choices you are committed to?
Making sure to incorporate some type of exercise every day—whether it’s 3-5 mile walks around my neighborhood, weight training, or just simply dancing in my room (which is my favorite). It’s also important to make the right food choices. There is nothing wrong with treating yourself to something sweet as long as you are also making sure to eat the veggies and fruits that are great for your health! Also, protecting my mental health a lot more and not really sweating the small stuff; life is absolutely wonderful and, yes, there are some days harder than others but as long as you can find something positive in your day, you are already winning. Invest in yourself and you will never regret it. Trust me, your mind, body, and soul will thank you for it.

DEBUG: cgb/block-vb-small-header

Christine Cunningham, PhD, Postdoctoral Scholar, Stanford University

DEBUG: cgb/block-vb-two-column

Tell us your connection to the cause…
Like far too many of us, I’ve had a family member taken away too soon because of heart disease, so I’ve always appreciated the need for increased research and education surrounding heart health. Through my own research, I’ve grown more aware of the lack of female representation in STEM fields, basic science research, and clinical trials—all of which surely contribute to heart disease remaining the number one cause of death in women. Like the American Heart Association, I’m passionate about increasing the representation of women in all levels of scientific research in order to help us all live healthier, longer lives. I also believe that studying the differences between heart disease in males and females can unlock powerful and creative insight into the pathogenesis and treatment of disease. 
 
And what about to the American Heart Association? 
Earlier in my graduate studies, I received a predoctoral fellowship award through the American Heart Association. Not only did the fellowship fund my research about sex differences in Pulmonary Hypertension, a life-threatening disease that is more common in females, but it also enabled me to learn from and connect with other scientists at annual American Heart Association scientific conferences. The data I generated while supported by the organization led to the discovery that the male-specific Y chromosome is protective against Pulmonary Hypertension and the identification of a novel preclinical therapy that extends male protection to females. 

DEBUG: cgb/block-vb-blockquote

“Like far too many of us, I’ve had a family member taken away too soon because of heart disease, so I’ve always appreciated the need for increased research and education surrounding heart health.”

DEBUG: core/paragraph

Your favorite part about the organization?
Through American Heart Association-sponsored events like the Heart Walk and STEM Goes Red, I’ve met many incredible people who motivate me to continue pursuing my research through their stories of perseverance, strength, and a passion to help others.

DEBUG: core/paragraph

To read more personal stories about the impact of heart disease, read Part I here.

DEBUG: cgb/block-vb-small-header

discover more on vbedit

DEBUG: cgb/block-vb-related

DEBUG: core/paragraph