More than 600 people gathered to raise awareness for the fight against women’s heart disease Thursday at the 15th annual GoRed for Women Luncheon. Supporters flooded the Oncenter to celebrate the nearly $400,000 raised over the past year which will go toward research, advocacy, training and education.
Doctors say the symptoms of heart disease in women might not always be that obvious, including shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue and nausea. But keynote speaker Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a cardiologist at Mount Sinai Hospital, says women shouldn’t take possible symptoms lightly.
"These subtle things that many times women will just blow off and say, 'I'm fine. I'll feel better,' could actually and potentially be her heart."
One in every three women dies of heart disease or stroke. That makes it the number one killer of women, more than all forms of cancer combined. Anne Proppe is a survivor of heart disease herself, having undergone two surgeries to repair a valve. More than ten years ago, the avid runner began passing out and having trouble breathing. She thought it was just asthma. But after some urging from a fellow runner, she went to the doctor and found she had near complete blockage of a valve. Proppe says she knows other runners who were not so lucky, so getting a checkup can be the difference between life and death.
"They were in perfect shape. They may have had the same symptoms I did, but didn't get them in time. I say I won the lottery. I've won for life."
But it didn't come after more surgeries. In 2014, she had a pancreatic tumor that required a major operation. But Proppe says the doctor wouldn't have touched it if her heart wasn't so strong. Then a couple years ago, her valve sprung a leak, requiring more surgery.
Dr. Steinbaum agrees that women often assume they know their bodies and that everything will be okay. She says women need to learn about their own bodies before making any assumptions.
"It really does come down to what we call through, GoRed for Women, 'Knowing Your Numbers.' Knowing your blood pressure, your cholesterol, your sugars, your weight and also knowing your family history and that means going to your doctor."
Proppe says that although the fight against heart disease can be tough, women can’t make excuses and must persevere in order to truly live.
"So after three major surgeries, it was a lot to recover and I could have given up. But I said, 'No. I'm going to pick myself up,' and I'm back running and right now training for November 11th. I'm going to do the Las Vegas half marathon. So I guess, if anything, I could say is, 'Keep moving.' Listen to your body, don't self-diagnose, and keep going."
Dr. Steinbaum says that women of color are at the greatest risk for heart disease, and heart disease has been increasing in younger women as well. More information can be found at GoRedForWomen.org.