The medical community is on the front lines, of course, treating sick patients, helping others recover and -- equally importantly -- educating and encouraging others how to avoid the dangerous tentacles of the No. 1 killer of Americans.
At a young age I was a swimmer with dreams of being an Olympian champion! Then my heart rate wouldn't slow down after races and workouts, and I knew it was something more than just overexertion, I knew that something was wrong.
As our youngest son, Julian, was having his breakfast and his older brother, Victor, was still sleeping, their father and my husband, Tony, suddenly began complaining of dizziness, shortness of breath and weakness.
Arianna and I recognized this as an opportunity to have a more profound impact. Together, we could -- no, should -- use whatever influence we have to touch more women, and to focus their attention on this vital issue of women and heart disease.
The number of people living with cardiovascular diseases has surged since LBJ's day, from around 10 million to nearly 84 million. This shows what a great job we are doing in treating these problems, and illustrates how much more work is needed to prevent them.
The fact of a heart attack became a reality when I was told by the emergency room on-call cardiologist that I couldn't wait for family to arrive to the hospital for support. "There's no time to lose." He needed to perform a heart catheterization procedure immediately.
My life is not "go, go, go" all the time like it was before. I rest more, eat better and take some time for myself. I think we all get used to doing too much and learn to ignore minor ailments or fatigue because that is what women are programmed to do.
After a visit to the emergency room, followed by an appointment with a cardiologist, my life would soon take an unexpected turn. I was diagnosed with a rare congenital heart defect that was causing my heart valve to leak severely and enlarged my heart twice the normal size.
I have gone from less than 5 percent heart function almost 12 years ago to normal heart function today. I am living well after being told I had 4.5-5 years to live. Please listen to your body and find a doctor that will listen. Going to the ER that day saved my life.
By all means, pay attention when the CDC says your heart is the key to your health today and tomorrow. But don't forget that heart health is the foundation of your emotional wellness, because what you feel in the body, mind and heart all flows together.
February is American Heart Month, and a time to raise awareness about heart disease and to educate the public on ways we can live heart-healthier lives. Here are several foods to include in your diet this month in honor of American Heart Month.