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Women's health forum at Robinwood focuses on heart disease

February 03, 2007|by MARIE GILBERT

Tina Larrick wasn't feeling well. She thought she might be getting the flu. But it was her daughter's birthday - a time to celebrate - so she tried to ignore her symptoms.

Heading to bed that night, she expected she would sleep well. What she wasn't expecting was a heart attack.

At the age of 38, Larrick was shocked to learn she had heart disease.

"My father had had open-heart surgery. His father died from a heart attack when he was 52, but I thought my brothers would be at risk for similar problems - not me," the Boonsboro resident said.

That was two years ago. Today, Larrick says she has a lot of reasons to be thankful.

"I've come a long way from the days after my attack, when I could hardly walk," she said. "I owe a great deal to my doctors and the rehab staff who offered so much encouragement."

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Larrick was among the women who attended a special event Thursday night devoted to raising women's awareness of heart disease.

The women's health forum, "Wisdom from the Heart: Women and Heart Disease," was held at Robinwood Medical Center and featured a heart health marketplace, followed by dinner, a fashion show and a presentation by Dr. Ann DeClue, an internist and a member of the leadership committee of the American Heart Association.

The event was held on the eve of Go Red for Women, the American Heart Association's national campaign to raise awareness about heart disease.

According to Pam Pietz, a registered nurse and program manager of cardiac rehabilitation at Washington County Hospital, this is the first year for the event.

"We've always done projects within the hospital to mark Go Red," Pietz said. "But this year, we wanted to involve the community."

Plans for the event began one year ago, she said, "and involved a lot of hard work by a lot of people, hospitalwide."

But the work was worth it for the sold-out event, Pietz said.

Pietz said the purpose of the event was trying to reach out and educate women of every age who don't realize they are at risk for heart disease.

"We have a lot of heart patients here," Pietz said. "But we are also hoping to reach those women 35 and up who need to be aware of personal risk factors."

According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death of women older than 25.

"Many people believe breast cancer kills more women," DeClue said. "But data shows that more women - about one in three - will die of heart disease and stroke."

In the last couple of years, women have become better informed about cardiovascular disease, DeClue said.

"They are taking care of themselves and are better educated about health issues," she said.

In the past, DeClue added, women delayed going to the doctor "because they didn't have the time or they were putting others ahead of themselves. I hope the women who are here tonight will walk away with an enthusiasm for lifestyle changes that will help them live longer, healthier and happier lives."

Shelly Crate of Clear Spring was among those attending Thursday's event.

"I'm here with my mother, sister and a friend," Crate said. "It seemed like a great way for women to get together and learn something we didn't know about heart health."

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