If you’re female, knowing and remembering the correct answer to the question below could actually save your life!
Q: What is a woman’s #1 health threat? a) Traffic accidents b) Lung cancer c) Heart disease d) Breast cancer
A: If you selected heart disease, you were correct - but did you really know the answer, or did you guess?
Either way, invest the time now to 1) read and to heed the statistics about heart disease; 2) understand your personal risks for heart disease; and 3) take action to reduce your personal risk for cardiovascular disease by leading a more heart healthy life.
And plan to wear red and to attend the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women Luncheon on Friday, November 8 at the Lexington Center.
The Go Red for Women initiative encourages awareness of of heart disease among and how we can take action to save more lives. The Go Red for Women movement harnesses the energy, passion and power women have to collectively band together in an all-out effort to wipe out heart disease.
This popular and proactive annual event, held on Friday, November 8 at the Lexington Center, will feature dynamic speaker Martha Lanier, a survivor of both breast cancer and a heart attack. Her personal story will not only make you smile, it will also make you keenly aware of the necessity to take action to protect your own heart health.
TOPS had the pleasure of speaking with martha about her experience with both breast cancer and heart disease.
Q: Having experienced two major life threatening health crises, what advice would you give to the myriad of Central Kentucky women who are reading this article?
A: “Being a survivor has given me a new appreciation for life. I often told myself “One day, I’m going to do (this and that)”…but that day hadn’t come, and possibly never would have until I accepted the fact that “my day is NOW.” Just before turning 61, I found a lump on my chest wall. Before I even received the biopsy results, I consumed myself with extensive research on a variety of treatments. When the pathology report revealed a .7cm Stage One Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma, I had already decided I wanted to take the most aggressive approach possible and to have a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction. My surgery was on June 3, 2008. Focusing on everything I could think of that was “good” about my experience helped me through the difficult times. Three months post-op, I walked 30 miles in the Atlanta 2-Day Walk for Breast Cancer. The following January all of my surgeons told me I was free to do anything I felt like doing.
Hearing this, my two daughters talked me into celebrating my one year anniversary as a cancer survivor by competing in an Iron Girl Triathlon. For a former non-athlete, this involved swimming 1/3 mile, biking l8 miles and ending with a 3 mile run. My girls helped me start slowly and to gradually increase my distances and to decrease my times in the sport. By the day of the event, I was literally in the best physical condition of my life. This event was one of the hardest things I had ever done, but also one of the most rewarding. The race officials even allowed my daughters back on the course to run me across the finish line!
Throughout my recovery from surgery and at the same time I was training for the Iron Girl, I wrote a book about my experiences with breast cancer. I wanted it to be informational but also to share some of the funny experiences. I submitted it to a publisher anticipating that it would be ‘out’ in early spring. When that didn’t happen, I could feel my anxiety building and with each week that passed, my stress was silently going out of control.
“Out of the blue” just four weeks after the Triathlon, I was blindsided when I was admitted to Cardiac Intensive Care, diagnosed with having had a heart attack. On two different occasions several days apart, I thought I was experiencing indigestion and feeling tired from working long hours rebuilding my business after recovering from my mastectomy. A blood test revealed my Troponins (an enzyme in our hearts) had leaked out and spiked to a level that confirmed I had had a heart attack. Initially I was devastated and had difficulty accepting what had happened. I was concerned that competing in the Iron Girl had caused the attack, but my cardiologist said that my six months of training had resulted in my heart being stronger than normal. The attack was caused by self-induced mental stress, diagnosed as Stress Cardiomyopathy. Throughout the following year, I felt like a walking time bomb, never knowing if I was going to have another attack, perhaps more serious than the first and possibly fatal. I am thrilled to say that now I am back to walking and kick- boxing without any physical restrictions. I am no longer on any medications and my cardiologist has released me.
Q: If, after your heart attack, you changed your dietary regimen, can you share what your diet consists of these days?
A: “I am much more aware of what and how much I eat and of the nutritional content, like the amount of fat, salt, sugar, fiber, and protein content. Portion control is easier if I use a salad plate instead of a dinner plate. Sweets used to be my downfall, now I avoid them. Having an occasional dessert doesn’t bother me, and the same goes for eating out. For 98% of the time, I maintain focus on eating healthy. For most of my life I did not enjoy drinking water, and I drank diet sodas instead. Today, water is the only beverage I drink.
“In addition to eating healthy I am a huge advocate of exercise. I am not a runner, never have been and never plan on being one, but I can walk for days. Many people are under the impression that for exercise to be beneficial, it has to be a strenuous workout that generates sweat. This may be considered a factor if you want to lose weight, but if you want to have a healthy heart, a brisk 30 minute walk five times a week is great. Look at your watch as you walk out of your front door and walk for 15 minutes. Turn around and walk back and you’re on your way to a healthier lifestyle. Some days you may want to walk farther. You may choose to listen to music on your iPod, or you may enjoy a quiet time without interruptions. Before starting any form of exercise, be sure to see your doctor first, and then choose to do something you enjoy. Better yet, invite someone to be your partner, and you both will benefit.”
And, as a sample of this amazingly strong woman’s outlook on life, she added this: “I’m often asked if there was ANYTHING positive about my medical challenges. The ‘straight up’ answer is “I am a survivor, and I’m thankful for every minute of every day.” Then, I add that while I was recovering from breast cancer, my doctor told me I couldn’t vacuum for 3 months!”