Marla Johnson suffered a heart attack last year, but thankfully her coworkers encouraged her to go to the hospital in time for treatment.
“The fact is that more women die of cardiovascular disease than all forms of cancer, but an astonishing 80 percent of cardiac events in women could be prevented if women made the right choices for their hearts involving diet, exercise and abstinence from smoking,” said Karen Colbert.
That’s why she was eager to take to the runway with other heart attack and stroke survivors to raise money and awareness of these maladies that affect woman at the annual
Go Red for Women Fashion Show hosted by the American Heart Association/ American Stroke Association.
“We’re in a fight of our lives, for women– by women,” said Karen Colbert, Director of Communications at AHA/ASA Pittsburgh Chapter.
Models took to the runway Wednesday Nov. 14, for the annual Go Red for Women Fashion Show hosted by the American Heart Association/ American Stroke Association who, since 1949, has spent more than $3.4 billion on research to increase our knowledge about cardiovascular diseases and stroke, helping save lives.
In 2004, the American Heart Association (AHA) observed that cardiovascular disease claimed the lives of nearly 500,000 American women each year however women weren’t noticing. The myth is that it’s a “older man’s disease” so the American Heart Association created Go Red For Women – a passionate, emotional and social initiative designed to empower women to take charge of their heart health
One-in-three women die of heart disease and fewer than 60 percent of women recognize heart disease as the no.1 killer of women therefore; The Go Red for Women Fashion Show supports awareness, education, community programs and research focused on heart disease in women.
Dr. Marla Johnson, Director of HIV/AIDS faith-based organization R.A.T.H.A. (Reach Act Provide Health Awareness), was referred to the organization and received a phone-call which led to her participation.
In December 2011, Johnson suffered a heart attack over the course of a weekend where she had multiple symptoms but thought they were minor aches and pains from a cold. She arrived at work as usual and had no idea she was having a heart attack.
Feeling tightness in her chest, Johnson mentioned the pains to co-workers who encouraged her to go to the hospital. While in the emergency room the doctors told her she had a heart-attack, “I never even knew, I thought it was a cold.”
Johnson has never participated in the fashion show until this year and decided to join because of the impact the program has made in her life as a woman and as a heart attack victim. This year someone referred her to be a volunteer in the show the AHA/ASA contacted her, interviewed her and chose her to be one of the ladies representing America’s survivors of this heart disease epidemic.
Rachel Winner, Chair of Open Your Heart Chair for the Go Red for Women’s Committee volunteered to be a model in this year’s fashion show because the charity hits home after being a part of it over the last three years.
First-time model and active volunteer Winner joined Pittsburgh Magazine in February 2010 as the Advertising Director and that’s where her relationship with AHA/ASA began. She hasn’t personally experienced heart disease or stroke but helps raise money for Go Red Women each year. “I volunteered because it’s very near and dear to my own heart: I want to be heart healthy for the rest of my life,” she said.
The ladies who walked onto the runway weren’t just the average models- they were real-life examples of those affected by heart disease. Marla Johnson, Zalayne Thomas, Susan Koeppen, Val Porter, Rachel Winner, Cathy Opsitnick, and Donna Whigham happily volunteered to strut-their-stuff to demonstrate that this condition affects ages, lifestyles, and ethnicity. Event Chairwoman said, “Go Red for Women has saved over 627,000 lives over the past 10 years-that’s 627,000 mothers, daughters, and sisters that are home with their families.”
Stories like that of survivor Sharon Martinez who learned that life is tough, but that she’s tougher. Martinez, 32, posted on Oct.13, 2012 about being a wife and a mother of three children and in January of 2010, she had a minor heart attack and was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. Six months after her diagnosis, she was being prepped at Tampa General Hospital to be implanted with a pacemaker. Today she has changed her lifestyle managing her foods, exercise routine, and her overall way of viewing life after surviving a heart attack.
According to the AHA/ASA, a heart attack occurs when the blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked, usually by a blood clot. If this clot cuts off the blood flow completely, the part of the heart muscle supplied by that artery begins to die.
Stroke is the no. 4 cause of death in America. It’s also a major cause of severe, long-term disability. Stroke and TIA (transient ischemic attack) happen when a blood vessel feeding the brain gets clogged or bursts. The signs of a TIA are like a stroke, but usually last only a few minutes.
Sponsors, volunteers and survivors came together at the event to raise awareness with a record-breaking crowd of nearly 500 people they raised $30,000 to go to further research. The event featured Fashions by Macy’s and Hair and makeup by Bella Capelli Academy and was held in the ballroom of the Wyndham Grand Hotel downtown.
As a result of the continuous awareness and resources and events like the fashion show that the AHA/ASA offer there are now multiple local resources such as the annual Go Red Open Your Heart Conference that work to give access to information and leading doctors in the area and online resources to encourage women to avoid risk factors of heart disease and stroke.
A major resource is their website at http://www.goredforwomen.org where women can browse over 5,000 stories from other women of various ages and ethnicities who are survivors who have had their life impacted by the AHA/ASA. The best part is that women can also add their own story to the abundant list of amazing survivor stories.