After suffering a heart attack, Antoinette Stratton, 65, from Citrus Heights, CA, was determined to reduce her risk so it would never happen again. Here are the lessons she learned along the way.
In 2012, I experienced an odd burning sensation in the lower part of my chest. I chalked it up to acid reflux and continued working, running errands—business as usual. It wasn’t until two days later, when the pain hadn’t subsided, that I became concerned. My husband drove me to the hospital, where an EKG confirmed I’d had a heart attack.
Lesson #1: Get treated immediately.
Don’t do what I did—don’t put it off. The sooner you’re treated, the better your outcome will be. Remember: Heart attack symptoms can be as subtle as fatigue or back pain—especially in women. If something seems off, call your doctor.
Lesson #2: Make health—not weight loss—your motivation.
After my heart attack, I took a month off of work to figure out the life changes I needed to make to reduce my chance of a second heart attack. When I heard that Woman’s Day Magazine and Joy Bauer were launching the Live Longer & Stronger Challenge, a program where they would help a select group of readers improve their heart health, I applied without hesitation. I was ecstatic when I learned I was one of 6 women selected to participate.
I worked with Joy and a nutrition coach to improve my habits. I practiced portion control, learned to cook wholesome, low-calorie, low-sodium meals, walked more and started doing yoga and meditation exercises to reduce stress. As my weight began to drop, so did my blood pressure and cholesterol numbers. And some weeks, the scale didn’t budge, but knowing my new heart-healthy ways would help me live longer for my grandchildren kept me on track.
Lesson #3: There truly is power in numbers.
Surround yourself with people, whether family, friends or coworkers, who are working toward the same goals. I wasn’t the only one improving my health; the other five women participating in the Challenge were also reducing their risk of cardiovascular disease. Research shows that support is the key to success, and we’re living proof. Barely a day went by when we didn’t check in on each other’s progress. We cheered each other on over the phone and shared triumphs, setbacks, healthy recipes and photos of our weight loss on Facebook. Knowing they were always there to encourage me kept me going when I was ready to give up.
Today, I’ve lost 38 pounds, but—more importantly—my cholesterol is within the excellent range, my blood pressure is a healthy 116/68, and I have learned how to manage my stress. I’ve dramatically lessened my risk for another heart attack, and am testament to the fact that small changes really do make a big difference when it comes to heart health.
In honor of February being Heart Health Month, the Clinton Foundation is featuring a series of blog content focusing on sharing heart-health tips and real-life stories to help educate both men and women on the dangers of heart health and how they can take action to improve both their own and their families' health. Last year, Woman's Day—the first women's magazine to champion heart disease awareness—brought its monthly Live Longer & Stronger heart health column off the page and into real life for a group of readers. After a nationwide search, six women were selected to work with WD nutrition columnist Joy Bauer to change their heart-health destinies. Their powerful stories were shared on-stage at the 2014 Red Dress Awards, where the Clinton Foundation was recognized for its work to promote heart health across a variety of its initiatives both domestically and internationally.