Heart Disease is Anything but Typical

darlene's WomenHeart PSA

I am a six-time marathoner who was diagnosed with advanced heart failure while training for a race that should have been my seventh. I was a whole/healthy foods vegan at the time of my diagnosis, I never considered I was at risk for heart failure. But I am evidence that heart disease is anything but typical.

Though there are proven risk factors for heart disease (including excessive weight, fatigue and shortness of breath) there isn’t one standard for all.  Heart disease presents in myriad ways—such as a bra that suddenly fits too tight—and can occur despite our best efforts to avoid it.

Celebrity trainer Jillian Michaels is well known for championing fitness and weight loss.  People might assume because of her profession that she has a better insight on heart health.  Recently, it was widely reported that she criticized the weight of recording artist Lizzo, suggesting that the singer’s weight puts her at risk for heart disease and other health problems. Only a year prior to this, her famously health colleague and fellow celebrity trainer Bob Harper suffered a massive heart attack.  This shows that even those we might trust to understand health and heart risks might not have any more insight than we do. The scary truth is that heart disease can affect any gender, weight range, age or lifestyle. The signs can be subtle, even invisible; you cannot simply “see” heart disease.

Harper manages his diagnosis and continues to advocate healthy living; so do I.  Leaving symptoms unaddressed or believing that your circumstances do not fit the expected “type” of someone with heart disease is a bigger risk than the actual diagnosis.

While it is important to know your risks and maintain a healthy lifestyle, it is just as important to pay attention to when your body behaves atypically.  Listen when something’s not right and do something. It could very well save your life, it saved mine.

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