THE BLOG

My Beautiful Babushka

02/05/2015 11:43 am ET | Updated Apr 07, 2015

By now we all know that heart disease is the number one killer of women in this country. Every 60 seconds, someone in the US dies from a heart disease related illness. As depressing as that statistic is, there are some encouraging facts as well. More and more women suffering from heart disease and heart attacks are surviving and thriving, well into their golden years. One of them happens to be one of my favorite women in the world -- my beautiful Grandmother Betia. Or as I simply call her "Babushka." She is the rock that holds our family together -- having immigrated to the US, settling in New York, in 1991. Though I did not spend much of my childhood with her (My parents and I immigrated 11 years earlier), we always shared a bond, even thousands of miles apart.

So when I moved to New York in 2001 to pursue my career...I jumped at the opportunity to spend more time with her. For the next 8 years, I would spend virtually every weekend at the Brooklyn apartment she shared with my aunt, uncle and cousin, eating her delicious Russian food, watching movies, and just chatting. My friends would grow to affectionately call her Babushka as would my future husband. In fact, soon after he asked my father for my hand in marriage -- she would be the next call he made. We nearly lost Babushka twice within those 8 years. The first was in 2005 when she suffered a major heart attack on her way to the laundry mat with my aunt. Four years later, it would be a complicated and extremely dangerous heart valve replacement procedure. We were fortunate both times that brilliant surgeons along with their teams of nurses and caring aides were there with her during those precious moments.

She is 87 today...and still living each day to the fullest. Now a great grandmother, my 2 1/2 year old son loves those weekend visits to Brooklyn to see "Big Babushka," as much as I did. The fact that she is able to live a productive, happy and healthy life today, not to mention the joy we get to experience knowing that she is still here, is priceless.
But surviving a heart attack is only half the battle. The other, and I would argue, more important for future generations, is prevention.

Today Babushka watches what she eats, and exercises to her fullest capacity. I often wonder whether she would have had to endure those near death experiences had she been educated about the preventative measures women can take to lower the risk of heart disease. Unlike past generations, we far more aware of the do's and don'ts of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and it is up to use to incorporate them into our day to day habits.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the American Heart Association's Go Red For Women in recognition of National Wear Red Day (Feb. 6, 2015), the aim of which is to raise awareness that today women are more likely than men have heart disease or a stroke, and 1 in 3 will die. But 80 percent of cardiac events can be prevented with education and lifestyle changes. To read all the stories in the series, visit here. And to follow the conversation on Twitter -- and share a picture of yourself wearing red -- find the hashtag #GoRedSelfie.