The beat goes on…

     Heart attacks are a part of our social consciousness

We know they happen. We all know somebody or of somebody who has had a heart attack. Some survive. Some do not. Even if we don’t personally know a person who has suffered a heart attack, heart disease or stroke, we know of a celebrity or two who fit into the category.

Not long ago, Alan Thicke, star of several sit-coms and a successful TV theme song composer, probably best known in recent years as Robin Thicke’s father, died suddenly of a heart attack.

John Ritter, star of many sit-coms and feature movies, died in his mid-50s of a heart attack. Larry King, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dick Cheney, Bret Michaels – these are just a few that come to mind.

And heart disease is certainly not limited to men. Age does not always eliminate the possibility either. Grammy Award-winning artist Toni Braxton felt tired, lightheaded and tightness in her chest. After passing out, she discovered she had pericarditis, an inflammation of tissue surrounding the heart.

Well-known comedian and talk show host Rosie O’Donnell felt chest pains a few years ago, and after a visit with a cardiologist, found she had severe blockage in a coronary artery. A stent repaired the problem. From that point on, she made several lifestyle changes to help remain healthy.

Talk show host Star Jones began to feel extreme fatigue and heart palpitations and ended up having heart surgery for a problem with her aortic valve when she was just 48.

The CDC lists heart disease as the leading cause of death in women – even above all cancers combined, though many people do not realize it.

The good news is that awareness of women’s heart disease – and heart disease in general – is gaining momentum. Recognizing the month of February as American Heart Month is just one of many initiatives that raise awareness.

In 2003, the Go Red for Women campaign was launched by the American Heart Association to increase awareness and empower women to take control of their heart health. Go Red advocates beginning healthy heart habits early before many young women even traditionally think about heart disease. Though it’s never too late to start a healthier lifestyle, the earlier it is started the more beneficial – making people feel better as well as live longer.

Tips like good fats vs. bad fats, keeping track of what you eat, getting enough sleep, avoiding overindulging in salt and sugar, lowering cholesterol, losing and maintaining weight; physical activity and many other factors that contribute to a healthy heart are discussed at goredforwomen.com.

Celebrities from Kim Kardashian to Felicity Huffman to Kimora Lee and Heidi Klum have modeled red dresses as part of The Heart Truth Red Dress Collection Fashion Show during New York Fashion Week. The Heart Truth campaign specifically focuses on heart disease in women.

Toni Braxton

Rosie O’Donnell