When people see the scar on my chest, they are shocked. I am often told, “But you’re too young for that. It doesn’t happen until you’re old…or a man.” They don’t realize that heart disease, not cancer, is the number one killer of women and that it can happen at any age – even to young women.
I was diagnosed with a malformed heart valve when I was 2-1/2 years old. When I was in my 20s I started having symptoms that my heart condition was getting worse. Unfortunately, like what happens to many women, my symptoms were not taken seriously by my doctors. I was told, “You’re a young woman and young women overreact to things. It is probably just stress,” and I was sent away. That almost cost me my life.
At the age of 31, I was finally taken seriously. By then I was in advanced heart failure with an aortic valve that stopped working and a massive aortic aneurysm that was on the verge of rupturing while I was on the operating table. I had full open heart surgery to replace my valve and part of my aorta.
Growing up with a heart condition, all I ever wanted was to be “normal” and to have a healthy heart. I wanted to be able to run and play with my friends just like everyone else. That was never an option for me, I never had that choice. I think that is what made it so much harder as I lost four family members over the years to completely preventable heart disease.
Sadly, my story is not unique. Did you know that 1 out of 3 women dies from heart disease? In contrast, 1 out of 31 dies from breast cancer each year. This is why the American Heart Association launched the Go Red For Women® movement back in 2003. The mission is to educate the public about heart disease and empower women to take positive steps for their health.
Friday, February 1 is the 10th National Wear Red Day. I invite you to join me in wearing red and I encourage you to become your own advocate and take charge of your heart health. It just might save your life.
Go Red For Women Events:
Friday, Feb. 1 at Cascade Eye and Skin Centers, University Place
Saturday, Feb. 2 at Alderwood Mall, Lynnwood
Download the free Wear Red Day guide at GoRedForWomen.org/WearRedDay
Brandi Aubrey is a survivor and volunteer for the Go Red For Women movement in Puget Sound. She chairs the Go Red Passion Committee, which is dedicated to community education about women and heart disease.