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AHA selects faces of special campaign

SPRINGFIELD — The American Heart Association (AHA) recently unveiled the images and the names of eight women who were chosen to be featured in a special campaign that will raise awareness and educate women on the many aspects of good heart health. The Women of Heart campaign, sponsored by Yankee Candle, Baystate Health, and Health New England recently kicked off at the 2011 Go Red For Women Educational Forum and Luncheon. All of the ladies were chosen based on their personal story of heart and their commitment and support of women's heart health. As each woman is unique, so is her story, which addresses the many aspects of cardiovascular disease. Story subjects include stroke care, knowing the warning signs of a heart attack, living a healthy lifestyle, sharing the message of good heart health, and leading by example. Each of the women participated in a professional photo shoot and their photo and story is showcased on an eight foot banner that will be displayed at various locations within Western Massachusetts. "Heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases kill more women each year than the next five causes of death combined, including breast cancer," AHA Director Linda Martins said. "This campaign will start the conversation and get the women of Western Massachusetts discussing why you need to know your numbers, the importance of exercise and learning the signs and risk factors of heart disease. Over 433,000 women die of cardiovascular disease although it is mostly preventable." The 2011 Women of Heart are as follows: Jennifer Podworski of Monson — "My daughter Emily was born with a congenital heart defect. This has inspired me to lead a heart healthy lifestyle and this past September, I ran my first 5K. I have even changed my career so I may help others," she said. Susan Lawson of Longmeadow — "I have coronary heart disease and had an emergency triple bypass. I want to live a long, energetic life so I will be here for my family. Through diet and exercise I have lowered my cholesterol and blood pressure. I keep my life in balance; spirit, body and mind," she said. Carmen Serrano of Springfield, said, "I wasn't overweight and my blood pressure was under control with medication, but I still suffered a heart attack in 2004. Thanks to my co-worker and my sister who knew the warning signs and pushed me to seek medical attention, I survived. Today I am working to stay healthy so I will see my son graduate college." Gloria Wilson of Springfield said, "After my mother died of sudden heart attack when I was just 10 years old, it became important to me to eat healthy and exercise every day. I share that important message with my children and grandchildren and also as a volunteer for the American Heart Association." Yvonne Paris of Longmeadow — "As the division chief of Pediatric Cardiology at Baystate Medical Center, I see children every day that need help keeping their heart healthy. I try to lead by example by walking daily and following a heart healthy diet," she said. Marissa Arnold of Simsbury, Conn. — "I suffered an ischemic stroke in the fall of 2006 while in college. Thanks to the medical care I received, the residual effects of the stroke were minor. I find that by staying healthy, I encourage others to be in touch with their health and see diet and exercise as a way of life," she said. Elizabeth Caravella of Somers, Conn. — "Heart attack symptoms for women can vary, and we tend to put ourselves on the back burner. I had classic signs of a heart attack — the same symptoms I ignored two months prior — and 911 were called. While in the ambulance I suffered cardiac arrest. CPR was started and I had to be shocked. The most important message I can share is call 911 immediately when you feel cardiac symptoms," she said. Tracey Gary-Ortiz of Springfield said, "As a young African American female with familial history of obesity, hypertension, hypercholesterol-emia, and diabetes I knew I had to make smart decisions regarding my heart health. I have chosen to be pro-active versus reactive by exercising, knowing my numbers and eating healthy." The American Heart Association's Go Red For Women movement raises awareness of heart disease and empowers women to reduce their risk by learning the steps to prevent it. For more information on tips for healthy living, a heart health assessment, to sign up for Go Red, healthy recipes and more, go to the Go Red for Women Web site located at www.goredforwomen.org . Bookmark and Share

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