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Life Lessons: Heart attack support group

The American Heart Association estimates 44 million women are affected by heart disease. More women are understanding how deadly heart disease is, and they’re taking action.

Bertha Verde, or “B”, is picking dresses for an American Heart Association “Go Red for Women” fashion show. She’s raising awareness of women’s heart health after having two heart attacks; one of them after an exercise class.

“My arms started to become tingly and numb, and pain started to set in," Verde said. "And I started to feel pain going up my neck.”

She had stents put in a blocked artery, but she didn’t stop with her own recovery. She wanted to help other women survivors find support more easily than she did.

Verde started a support group for women who’ve had heart attacks or are at risk. They meet at Scripps Clinic every month to get and share information. Verde was trained by a coalition called, Women Heart.

“For me, helping people kind of helps me cope with what’s going on with me," Verde said. "I want to help people move forward instead of constantly reliving what happened.”

Cardiologist Christina Adams, from Scripps Women’s Heart Center, said Verde’s support group is a great forum for women to compare experiences and get better educated about heart disease and resources.

“It will only encourage better adherence with medication and cardiac rehabilitation," Adams said. "And just overall, we know that people who have support, they have better prognoses.”

“I think it’s really important that women are able to have a conversation and talk to each other and say, 'This is what I had, what did you have?” Verde said.

Verde and Adams believe these meetings can make a life-saving difference.

Adams said it’s important that women realize their heart attack symptoms are different than those men experience. They can include pain in the jaw, arm, back, or neck, extreme fatigue, dizziness and heartburn. There are 110 support groups like Verde’s in 40 states where you can learn more. Visit womenheart.org to find one near you.

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