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Even fit women have heart disease

Have you heard of the American Heart Association’s educational outreach program Go Red for Women™?

Heart disease is still the number one killer among women and men, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Family history, along with dietary intake and physical activity levels impact risk factors.

Friday is Go Red for Women day – and you can show your support by wearing something red.

While researching this topic, I was intrigued by two spokeswomen from Go Red because they were already doing all the right things…or so they thought.

Liz Tatham – age 43

Tatham is an active mother of four kids in a Kansas City suburb who coached her son’s running club.  She would run 15 miles a week, until suddenly, she couldn’t.  Since it was September, she blamed allergies.  Gradually, her coughing increased and breathing became more of a struggle, even walking up stairs.  She found herself so fatigued that she couldn’t get through the day without a nap. Everything she ate caused her to burp.  Her primary care doctor thought it was bronchitis, then gallbladder issues, and finally after a month she saw a cardiologist.

“If my husband or kids had these symptoms, I’d take them to the ER,” Tatham said.  During an echo cardiogram, the technician explained she has a bicuspid aortic valve (BAV), and it should be tricuspid.  BAV is a congenital malformation.  Heart valves are responsible for blood flow between chambers of the heart, in one direction.

Tatham called a neighbor, who is a physician.  Another friend recommended she see a specialist at the Cleveland Clinic for this procedure.  Within two months of the initial consult, she had her valve repaired.  She was grateful for the time to celebrate birthdays and holidays with her family – not certain she’d be around for more.

Women’s Intuition

After the surgery, Tatham said she rests regularly and makes herself more of a priority.  She was candid about coming to terms with the scar on her chest.  Her son caught her staring at it in the mirror and said, “Mom, I think your scar is cool.”  Her friends call it her courage scar and she has learned the art of tying scarves and modifying her wardrobe to keep it hidden, not out of shame, but to keep others from staring.

“Trust your intuition," Tatham said. "You know when something isn’t right; heart disease doesn’t mean you have time to wait to get it checked.”

Dianne Kane-McGunigle – age 53

Dianne Kane-McGunigle is has been a fitness instructor and personal trainer for 22 years in the suburbs of Boson.  Kane-McGunigle has devoted her whole life to being healthy and keeping people around her healthy. She has run 17 marathons and was always “picture perfect “at her regular doctors’ visits.
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