Women take heart health to heart

By Christina Killion-Valdez

The Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

Know your risk

Nearly 460,000 women die per year of heart disease, which is more than the next five causes of death combined, including all cancers, according to the American Heart Association.

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It didn't strike Jeanie Unger of Mantorville as particularly odd when her hands went numb.

She worked more than 60 hours a week and figured the numbness that crept up her arms, across her chest and into her back for more than a month was related to sitting at her computer desk.

In reality, she was having a heart attack.


"I never thought it would happen to me," she said.

But on her 46th birthday, it did.

In hopes that her story could make at least one other woman realize the risk that heart disease poses for women, Unger volunteered as a model during the fashion show at Wednesday's fourth annual Go Red For Women event in Rochester.

The event, which is put on by the American Heart Association and several local businesses and organizations, brought about 300 women of all ages together to socialize, get pampered and learn about women's heart health issues. The day included a fashion show, vendor booths, health screenings, a salon setup, silent auction, heart health cooking demonstration and a luncheon. It was also a chance for women to take time for themselves, which is good for the heart.

"As mothers, we put ourselves last," Unger said.

Yet in order for her to be there for her boys, Unger said she had to focus on her need to exercise, eat right and cut back on her work hours.

At age 79, Naomi Atrubin of Rochester said she was flattered to be asked to be in the Go Red for Women fashion show. She also is lucky to be alive.

Atrubin suffered two heart attacks, one on Christmas Eve in 1992 and another 12 years ago, she said.


And while heart disease runs in her family — heart attacks killed her father at age 51 and her only brother at 50, she said — she was able to beat it part by working out every day and cutting back on salt and cholesterol.

Nonetheless she's concerned that heart disease is still seen as a men's issue, which means women aren't diagnosed as promptly as men.

She encourages women to "be persistent about treatment and try to take care of yourself."

As a graduate student for molecular pharmacology doing research on sudden-death heart attacks, Cherisse Kellen of Rochester said her interest in heart health is professional, but also personal.

Her concern is for her daughter and her fiancee's children, she said. "I want to try prevent it so the younger generation doesn't have to deal with these diseases."

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