02/09/2012 09:15 am ET

Women And Cardiovascular Disease: Super Advocates Inspire Action

By the time Tami Kemit finally saw a doctor, she had been having a heart attack for three days.

The then-36-year-old mother from Erie, Pa., eventually suffered three more heart attacks. At 27-weeks-old, her daughter Brooke went into cardiac arrest from a congenital heart condition called supraventricular tachycardia, or SVT, ABC reports.

Statistics suggest Kemit's hesitation in getting help might be all too common among women -- every year more women die of heart disease than all forms of cancer combined, which reports is a woman's death almost every minute of every day.

Now, after multiple surgeries and a pacemaker defibrillator implanted, Kemit and her daughter are actively involved in the American Heart Association's You're The Cure, which advocates for research and medical screenings.

"If anybody in the family -- man under 60 or woman under 30 -- has had a heart attack," Kemit told ABC, "you need to stress to your doctors to check it out and -- cholesterol and blood pressure -- and stay physically active."

Kemit's caveats are more than echoed by major heart health organizations. The American Heart Association advocates weight and stress management, physical activity, and an eye for nutrition -- especially through a reduction of sodium, which causes high blood pressure and leads to heart disease. And of course, quitting smoking.

But it isn't just the heart-healthy organizations getting involved in the fight. New legislation aimed at improving the cardiovascular health of millions of women nationwide has been introduced by U.S. Rep. Lois Capps, D-Calif., called the HEART For Women Act.

“While we have made great progress in the fight against heart disease," Capps said about the bill, "it remains the number one killer of American women, needlessly claiming the lives of far too many of our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters.”

Shermane Winters-Wofford was almost one of those lives, beating the odds and surviving two strokes.

Her first stroke happened on a first date. She dismissed the sweating as nerves, but within hours she was at the hospital with blurred vision and speech. Heart disease ran in her family, and being an African-American woman made her health risks even higher.

But after the second her routine changed: Now she exercises and eats right, and is a spokesperson for Go Red For Women. The man from the first date proposed a year later, and Winters-Wofford is set on making sure other women don't let heart disease take their lives prematurely, either.

“I Go Red,” Winters-Wofford said in a release, “for all the women in my family.”

Want to help with the fight against women's heart disease? Here are a few ways to get involved:

Join the American Heart Association's Go Red For Women Campaign this month, spreading the message of heart health by wearing red, or donate to the organization.

Support the American Stroke Association -- strokes are directly related to cardiovascular disease, and are the leading cause of adult disability in the U.S.

Give the gift of hope, by donating blood through the American Red Cross. Plus, the Indiana Blood Center has teamed up with the American Heart Association to donate $1 for every new "like" on their Facebook page.