Brand SpotlightHealthier Together


Healthier Together: Preventing heart disease in women

Posted at 9:04 PM, Feb 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-10 20:01:46-05

Go Red for Women is now in its 17th year, raising awareness and funds toward the recognition and prevention of heart disease in women.

Many women don't believe heart attacks are something that can happen to them, especially younger women. Amy Nay spoke to a heart attack survivor Michelle Martinez, who says that was the case for her.

"It really felt like I had been punched in the chest. It was a really unique feeling," Martinez said of the heart attack that nearly took her life when she was just 37 years old. "They said it was spontaneous coronary artery dissection, which is something that happens more typically in younger, healthier women."

Martinez considered herself healthy. She had been a high school and college athlete and had just spent the day skiing when later in the shower she felt a pain in her chest. Her now husband was with her that day and encouraged her to go to the hospital when she complained of not feeling well.

"No, no, we’re fine. I’ve got dinner to make. I’ve got things to do. Don’t worry about it," Martinez remembered she said that day, adding she's fortunate he insisted they go to the E.R., a decision that saved her life.

Health care workers gave her an angiogram and put two stents in her heart, then she spent three days in the cardiac ICU.

Martinez is one of the lucky ones. One in three women in the United States will die from some form of heart disease, according to the American Heart Association.

"Heart attack, heart failure, even cardiac arythmias," Dr. Amy Khan, the executive medical director from Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah, told FOX 13 were possible forms of heart disease including stroke. She said it's the number one killer of women, more so than all other forms of cancer.

"Unfortunately, women aren’t aware of their risk. And that’s particularly true for younger women. Turns out about 45% of women over the age of 20 have some form of heart disease or heart disease risk. And that’s especially true for African American, Hispanic and certain Asian American individuals."

It's this lack of awareness and her own personal experience that inspires Martinez to be involved with the Go Red for Women movement and with the American Heart Association where she serves on the board. She says she loves to speak to other women, especially young women, about the risk and encourages them to know their numbers, like blood pressure, BMI and cholesterol levels. She says slowing down and getting a short walk in each day can go a long way in prevention.

"Rest, relaxation, meditation, mindfulness," Dr. Khan suggests as ways to help alleviate stress, something she says can contribute to higher blood pressure and other factors that are real problems when it comes to your heart health. Dr. Khan also suggested to continue to take measures to try to avoid contracting COVID-19. The virus has been linked to heart inflammation, cardiac disease and even cardiac events like heart attacks.

For more information on heart disease and Go Red for Women you can go to the American Heart Association page here: Go Red for Women | The American Heart Association’s signature women’s initiative