Since taking on the role of chairwoman of Northern Nevadas
Inaugural Go Red Luncheon, I have learned so much about women and cardiac disease.
We need to make sure every woman is aware of her risks and continue to raise
dollars for research.
I was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect when I was 8 years
old and have known heart disease and its limitations my entire life. Four years
ago I had open-heart surgery to correct my deformed valve. The last four years
of my life have been the most active. Now I run, snowshoe, ski, golf, hike, bike,
climb, and so much more on a regular basis. Being able to exercise is a blessing,
not a burden!
President/CEO Rose/Glenn Group
Account Executive, Citadel Communications, AHA voluneer
I had heart ablation surgery in March of 2004 and it directly affected
the quality of my life. Prior to that, I was going often to the lab for blood
work because of the medication. I was tired and cold and the health of my heart
was always on my mind. How nice to be free of all the restriction that a trial
fibulation causes! I am thankful for Sierra Nevada Cardiology and the Lord for
giving the skill to Dr. Ram Challapalli to help me regain my freedom.
Bank teller, US Bank
Most risk factors can be controlled; proper diet and exercise are
things you can do and ultimately reduce your risk of stroke.
MA, RN, FNP-C, Washoe Health System,
Neuroscience Institute Director
Program Development and Research
Local women take disease to heart
DONT EVER TAKE YOUR HEART FOR GRANTED.
Thats the message the American Heart Association is hoping more women
realize with its Go Red for Women national campaign.
The goal of the second-year grassroots effort is to increase awareness and
raise funds for cardiovascular disease research. Cardiovascular disease is the
No. 1 cause of death for women.
I was from that mindset that women didnt have heart attacks,
said Margaret Wittenberg of Reno. But now I call myself a survivor.
A year ago, Wittenberg had three stents wire mesh tubes to prop open
arteries put in around her heart.
Wittenberg had gone to the emergency room a few times but doctors missed her
symptoms. Wittenberg, at age 50, didnt think her heart would cause her
Eventually, it was so bad that they did an angiogram and the bottom
part of my heart had completely closed off, she said.
Today, Wittenberg looks back and realizes conditions such as high cholesterol
and high blood pressure led to her heart problems.
I am doing great now. I went on an exercise program after the hospital
and was really educated on how to take care of myself, she said. I
feel so fortunate, like Ive been given a second chance.
Realizing symptoms early is one of the best methods of defense, according
to the heart association.
Lynn Atcheson, 65, of Reno knows that better than most.
More than 20 years ago, Atcheson suffered a mild heart attack.
I was a very healthy premenopausal woman who had low cholesterol, exercised,
and didnt smoke, said Atcheson. There were no indications
that I would be a heart attack victim.
Atcheson said her symptoms included a rolling sensation up and down her back
and as light tingling in her arm.
When I went to the emergency room my tests were normal, she said.
It took 24 hours for blood tests to show I had a mild cardio infraction.
Atcheson later attributed her mild heart attack to stress.
I had lost my job, a child went away to college, and we had a major
death in our family, she said. I now realize that those things can
take their toll.
Today, Atcheson is healthy and knows how to control stress levels.
I know you can be busy, but (you have to learn) how to slow down and
realize that you cant do it all, and if you have symptoms, they arent
always ones you should or can ignore, she said.
For others, heart problems are just a fact of life that makes each day a blessing.
Women born with heart problems say they want to inspire women to take their
health and heart seriously.
Last year, Mary Boughton had a procedure to correct a trial fibrillation,
a hereditary condition where the upper chamber of the heart quivers rather than
It made Boughton, 60, feel as if her heart was going to beat right out of her
A heart ablation, a non-surgical procedure where a radio frequency is transmitted
to destroy the heart muscles cells that cause the quivering and medications
has changed Boughtons life.
I feel wonderful and have a better quality of life, she said.
More research needs to continue.
LIVING WITH DEFECTS
Advancements due to research also gave Rebecca Venis a better quality of life.
I was born with a birth defect in my heart, said Venis. That
makes me not take my heart for granted.
Venis explained she was born with a bicuspid aortic valve.
Most hearts have three flaps, mine had two and they were sealing shut,
The defect was discovered when she was 8 years old and doctors told her shed
have to have surgery in her 50s or 60s. At 28, a doctor scheduled heart surgery
for her to open up the valves, which had closed.
They put in a new valve and it worked for a few years, she said.
Eventually, I will have to have a mechanical valve put in.
The procedure was just being perfected when it was performed on her five years
ago, but it gave Venis a chance to run marathons and try to start a family.
Today, Venis, at 33, strives to make her heart the best it can be despite
being born with a heart defect.
I have always been very active, said Venis. I figured with
my defect I had to workout twice as hard as everyone else just to maintain.
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
Sue Duchesneau was in a similar situation. At 35, the Reno resident started
having problems with her heart. It was a hereditary condition that affected
her siblings and, today affects her teenage son.
In my 30s, I was tired without doing much. I had tests, but nothing
came out abnormal, she said. At 36, a test showed my main left artery
was blocked and I had to have bypass surgery.
Today, Duchesneau continues to take medications for her condition and hopes
more advancements continue.
I was like a lot of women. I figured my tests were normal, so I was
OK, she said. You know, as a woman, youre busy and you think
youre stressed and feeling bad with everything you have to do. You feel
an ache in your shoulder and you think I must have lifted something wrong. You
never think its a major heart problem.
For more information on heart disease and living a healthy life, visit American
Heart Association at www.americanheart.org
or the local office at 1281 Terminal Way, Ste. 111, or call 322-7064.
Siobhan McAndrew is the pop culture editor for the Reno Gazette-Journal.