Every day a woman loses someone she loves to heart disease.
For Bonnie Arkus, that person was her mother, a vibrant woman in her 60s who remained unaware in the months leading up to her death that her cholesterol had skyrocketed. She attributed the unusual panic attacks she'd been experiencing to stress. She didn't know they actually were early warning signs of a heart attack. Bonnie's mother died from complications of bypass surgery.
Allison Cody also lost her mother to a heart attack when Allison was only 13. Her mom battled a heart condition and was one the first female teenagers to undergo open-heart surgery for the insertion of a pacemaker. She went on to live a full life, raising two daughters. Then, at 36, she suffered a sudden heart attack and died in her sleep.
Cardiovascular disease—which most often results in a heart attack or a stroke—is the number-one killer of women in the U.S. It claims more lives than cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, pneumonia, or fatal injuries from an automobile accident. About 43 percent of women will die of heart disease. That equates to almost half a million women a year.
Because these numbers are sobering—and because not enough women realize the unique risks and symptoms they can experience with the disease—people such as Bonnie and Allison are working to spread awareness. Bonnie serves as the founder and director of the New Jersey-based Women's Heart Foundation. Allison, a recent graduate of Elon University, aspires to work for the American Heart Association.