Champion Spotlight: Put Your Best Foot Forward

WomenHeart Champion Darlene Scott doesn’t let heart disease define her, she keeps moving forward; one foot in front of the other. And, this National Minority Health Month, she wants women of color to do the same, but to also be aware of the signs and symptoms of heart disease. “Heart health awareness is important in our community, says Scott. “Women of color are disproportionately affected by the disease, and often don’t know what to look for.” Sometimes heart disease symptoms are mistaken for something else—which is what happened in Darlene’s case.

“I was training for a marathon in 2016 and noticed I was experiencing shortness of breath and fatigue. It felt different than a normal training. I thought it was my allergies.” After initially being diagnosed with asthma, Darlene later learned that she had an enlarged heart, also known as cardiomyopathy. Within a year, she was implanted with a pacemaker and further diagnosed with sarcoidosis, an auto-immune disease. “I felt alone. I felt like I didn’t have anyone to talk to after being diagnosed.”

That all changed in 2018. After searching for support groups online, Darlene found WomenHeart and would go on to join the WomenHeart Champion Class of 2018, an accomplishment she is very proud of. “My experience at the Science and Leadership Symposium was life-changing,” Darlene added. “I learned so much there, and the atmosphere was so nurturing and family-like. I would recommend WomenHeart to any woman living heart disease.” She uses her experience as a WomenHeart Champion to spread  heart health awareness and encourages women in the African-American community to not just know their family history, but to talk about it. “I learned that my grandmother also had an enlarged heart. She was diagnosed at age 39, but it wasn’t really talked about in my family. We have to be open about family history in our community.”

Today, Darlene feels good. Although she has not participated in a marathon since her diagnosis, she continues to stay active by running and walking regularly. She enjoys her role as an associate professor of Composition and Creative Writing at Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia, and is also driven by the sense of purpose she feels as a WomenHeart Champion.

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