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.
Their stories are, unfortunately, all too common. The fact they happened around Christmas is a reminder that heart disease can strike anyone at any time. So as you cherish the time you spend with your loved ones, please also be wary and take any symptoms seriously.
Whether the topic is breast cancer, heart disease or any major illness, women need to be in tune with their bodies. Awareness and education are vital because they lead to prevention and early detection, two of the best tools in health improvement.
Five years later, and after overcoming the mental hurdles that often come with being a heart disease survivor, I am more accepting of what happened to me. Instead of focusing on what I might do wrong, I now focus on what is right about my life after heart disease.
Heart disease doesn't look a certain way or discriminate. It doesn't just affect old, overweight, inactive men. It doesn't just happen to "other" people. And if you haven't been affected by heart disease -- trust me, there's a good chance you will in the future.