By Leisha Tedford Doherty
The month of February seems to conjure up all things loving and romantic. After all, it’s the month we celebrate Valentine’s Day. Our thoughts turn to romantic date nights, decadent chocolates, and beautiful bouquets of flowers. Those were exactly some of my thoughts four Februarys ago before my life changed drastically. Waking up on life support opened my eyes to the daunting truth that heart disease is a woman’s issue.
The topic of heart disease was never at the forefront of my conversations. Not even with my doctors, who I saw regularly for my yearly physicals and semi-annual GYN check-ups. The more I learned, the more the lack of conversation frustrated me.
Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States. One in three women die of heart disease a year, compared to 1 in 30 women who die yearly from breast cancer. Since 1984, more women have died yearly from heart attacks than men. Astonishing, isn’t it?
I am a woman who has survived six heart attacks, numerous cath surgeries, multiple stents, two open-heart surgeries, and many cardiac setbacks.
Heart disease is a silent killer in women. Once diagnosed, women tend to have worse outcomes, and we usually fall victim to the disease’s deadly potential. I know I am one of the “lucky ones” because I survived.
We need to start making heart disease part of our conversations. Heart disease is 80 percent preventable with lifestyle change. My life’s mission is to change women’s conversations and educate them about their No. 1 disease that takes so many lives.
In honor of February being National Heart Month, make it your mission to change your conversation and learn about heart disease in women. Educate yourself about the risk factors, and begin to make lifestyle changes that will positively impact your health. Start talking with your doctors and your girlfriends to raise awareness and save lives. Let’s get the conversation started!
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, my experience has taught me that life is like a box of chocolates. It may not have been one of your favorite flavors, or your first choice, but it’s mostly all good. It’s truly our attitude that determines our gratitude. My experience with heart disease has taught me to live each day as a gift. It is my hope that my heart disease becomes your first symptom and that you begin to make each heartbeat count.
Leisha Tedford Doherty, MSW is the owner of Her Heartbeat, a counseling and life coaching service for women that focuses on total heart health (physical, emotional, spiritual). She is also the Director of Go Red For Women and Heart Ball Campaigns at the American Heart Association, Greater Syracuse/CNY Office. She can be reached at 315-663-1712 or Leisha.Doherty@Heart.org