Two local women are sharing their stories of heart disease to encourage others to take a proactive role in their health.
American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women announced this year’s “Real Women,” national spokespeople for the cause, and two of the nine women selected are from Kansas City.
Angela Baird of Grandview and Julie Rickman of Overland Park 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.
Baird was graduating from college and went to serve the less fortunate in Africa. In the midst of bringing clean water to the African bushland, Baird had a heart attack. When she returned home, she was diagnosed with an unknown African illness. Three years later, the symptoms returned and it was discovered that her heart was only functioning at one-third of its capacity. At 24 years of age, Angela had emergency open heart, double-bypass surgery.
“I can’t imagine how different my life would be had I fought for answers to my symptoms,” Baird says. “I can imagine other young women who prevent what I endured. Action today can change your tomorrow. Knowledge is your power. Don’t wait.”
Rickman thought she was suffering from asthma when two days after Christmas she found herself in the ER with shortness of breath and fatique. 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.”
Read more about this year’s Real Women spokespeople and learn about women’s risk for heart disease at goredforwomen.org.