RICHMOND, Va. -- Heart disease is the number one killer of all Americans, and, this month, the American Heart Association (AHA) wants you to take some time to focus on your cardiovascular health.
"Heart disease is 80% preventable," explained Michelle Nostheide, executive director of the AHA of Richmond. "Lifestyle changes, even small ones can add up to really make a difference in your heart health. So we're encouraging women this month to make small changes. And that can be drinking more water, getting out and walking and doing whatever activity you enjoy."
67-year-old Glenda Baul of Mechanicsville knows just how important these steps are to helping prevent heart disease. She was diagnosed with the disease nine years ago.
Baul has a family history of heart disease and lost both her dad and brother to heart attacks, but she still never thought the disease would impact her.
That’s until she noticed a difference in her breathing during a workout at the gym in 2014. Baul said she ignored it at first and figured she was just tired, but a trainer at her gym encouraged her to contact her doctor.
"I got to the emergency room, stayed in the emergency room all night, they found nothing," Baul explained. "Because heart disease in women is very difficult to find."
But Baul was referred to a cardiologist who confirmed one of her arteries was 95% blocked.
"I mean, I just couldn't believe it," she noted. "So I tell people all the time, even though I knew things, I ignored the things that I knew. So my message to everybody now is, even if you know, you still need to listen to your body."
Baul had a stent put in nine years ago. She said it gave her new life.
She said she now feels a responsibility to share her story as not just a woman, but an African American woman.
According to the AHA, Black adults in the United States die from heart disease at a rate two times higher than White adults.
"It's very important for us as women, but as African American women, heart disease is very dominant," said Baul. "And we tend to multitask 24/7, we have to do this, that and everything. And the first thing I say to others is breathe, take a break."
This Sunday, Baul will hold a Go Red Day at First Shiloh Baptist Church in Mechanicsville. Nurses will be on site to take people’s blood pressure.
The AHA is hoping someone in every household can be trained in hands-only CPR for this year's Heart Month. The organization noted 70% of cardiac arrests that happened outside of the hospital actually happen inside of homes.
Nostheide said we saw just how important CPR is last month when Buffalo Bills trainers were able to save Damar Hamlin after his heart stopped on the field.
Friday is National Wear Red Day, where the American Heart Association encourages you to wear red, post a photo on social media and share at least one healthy habit you are prioritizing this month, whether it's sleep, physical activity or nutrition. They hope you will encourage others to do the same.
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