I was working from home when suddenly I felt this odd tingling sensation down my legs. I stood up to stretch and walk thinking my legs were just falling asleep, but when I got to the other room, I had to stop and brace myself on my desk because I was feeling strange and lightheaded.
I also felt heaviness on my chest and it was difficult to take a deep breath. Even my voice sounded faint. Normally, I would have ignored this feeling, brushed it off hoping it would just go away, but because of the many discussions and conversations I have had with the women on my Heart Ball Committee, I thought twice.
Women don’t have typical heart attack symptoms. Women ignore the signs because they don’t believe it’s happening to them. Women wait too long and then it’s too late. So instead of doing nothing, I asked someone to drive me to the E.R.
I went through a battery of tests and scans which all came out negative, but the doctors reinforced that I did the right thing by coming in. I also followed up with my internist and a cardiologist and even though I have no history of heart disease and my risk factors are very low, I still asked for all the routine tests.
I’ve learned from working with the American Heart Association that the statistics are frightening…and I didn’t want to be one of them. According to the AHA, one woman every minute dies from heart disease in the U.S.
The good news is that 80 percent of heart attacks and strokes can be prevented, which is why this year’s Phoenix Heart Ball Chairwoman Kristine Thompson’s mission is all about prevention and education.
“Knowing your numbers is the first step in preventing heart disease. It surprises me when I talk to people and they don’t know their blood pressure or cholesterol levels. These are critical factors in determining one’s health and risk of heart disease or stroke,” said Thompson, as blood pressure itself is known as a silent killer.
This is a personal passion for Thompson as heart disease has touched her family.
“My grandfather was one of the first people in the Valley to undergo a triple bypass surgery and grandmother passed away from a stroke after having many ‘little incidents’ as she liked to call them,” Thompson remembers.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Phoenix Heart Ball, a fundraising arm for the American Heart Association. Senator Barry Goldwater’s wife Peggy chaired the first ball that has since raised more than
$35 million to help fight heart disease in our community.
That legacy is one Thompson intends to honor and continue.
“With this being our 60th year,” she said, “I have been given an opportunity to take Peggy Goldwater’s vision and create this magical year of memories and gratitude.”
Much of that gratitude is directed at her mom, Sandy, who was the 45th chair of the Heart Ball and who Kristine picked as this year’s Heart Ball Sweetheart.
“It is such a privilege to follow in her footsteps,” Thompson said.
These are footsteps she hopes will lead to giant leaps in eradicating heart disease. This begins with everyone being their own health advocates, listening to our bodies and not ignoring the symptoms or making excuses for what we are feeling.
By “knowing your numbers” and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, we can all accomplish Thompson’s mission, which is to ultimately “live our best lives.”