Your Heart Truly Is Precious

Julia Allen shares her story with others to raise awareness of heart disease
Julia Allen shares her story with others to raise awareness of heart disease

Matters of the heart, especially for women, are nothing to be taken lightly. Many women are unaware of how serious heart disease is and how many individuals it impacts. The American Heart Association has initiated a campaign called Go Red for Women in order to encourage women to be aware of heart disease and the risk factors that can impact heart health. It also encourages women to take action to lead healthier lives and reduce personal risk.

Julia Allen, a 2015 spokeswoman for the Go Red for Women movement, knows all too well about what it means to experience a heart health scare. On April 13, 2013, she experienced two heart attacks in the same day—the first of which she tried to ignore. Allen says she had been advised by her doctor to see a nutritionist, but didn’t go because she was always so busy. She finally scheduled an appointment—and had even signed up for boot camp classes to improve her fitness health. But a week before, she found herself in the hospital.

Allen was at work and says she didn’t even realize she was having a heart attack. She just knew something felt different. She remembered seeing signs for the Go Red for Women campaign and went to the website. After reading women’s stories, she determined she could be experiencing a heart attack. She called her husband and the doctor, but before she made her way to the hospital, she stopped by her house to leave a note and key for her children and to make them a snack. “That’s what women do—our nature is to be nurturers and take care of other people,” Allen said. “But I think I went overboard because I wasn’t taking care of myself.”

By the time Allen arrived at the hospital, it was almost 3 p.m.—but she started having the symptoms around 8:30 that morning. She had her second heart attack later that evening while at the hospital, feeling all of the same things she had gone through previously that day:

• tightening in the jaw • pain in the left arm • nausea • lightheadedness • dizziness • feeling overheated, but having a cold sweat • shortness of breath

Allen remained in the hospital for four or five days, and found out there had been an 80 percent blockage of one of her arteries. Her family history was one of the causes of her heart attack. Now, she leads a healthier lifestyle through a nutritious diet and by exercising throughout the week, even if that means simply walking during her lunch break with a coworker. She says she’s had to make some adjustments to her life and her schedule, but she’s embraced those changes—and not simply because of necessity. “Now, I choose to live a healthy lifestyle,” Allen said. “There’s nothing like a heart attack to make you see things differently.”

julia and family
julia and family

Allen says she hopes to encourage other women to take charge of their heart health, noting that one in three women die of heart disease or stroke each year, and 90 percent of women have one or more risk factors unbeknownst to them. More women die of heart disease than cancer, stroke, chronic lower respiratory diseases and Alzheimer’s.

Allen’s story is a reminder of how important it is for women to take care of themselves. While she will not forget her experience and the impact it made on her lifestyle, she doesn’t let it stop her from enjoying each moment. “I think about it,” she said, “but I choose not to live in fear.”

Friday, Feb. 6, is National Wear Red Day in support of the movement to help save lives by raising awareness for the risks and impacts of heart disease. Allen strongly encourages women to do everything they can to educate themselves—she hopes they learn from her story and also go to the Go Red for Women website to become even more knowledgeable on heart disease.