Women and heart disease awareness evening offers wealth of information

By Rob Vogt
The message was clear: women need to look out for each other and look after themselves.
More than 60 women gathered at the Claresholm Social Centre on Saturday, Feb. 17, for a “Women and heart disease awareness evening” presented by the social centre and Mary Holgate.
The evening featured a number of guest speakers covering various aspects of heart health.
Heart health
Holgate took the crowd back 22.5 years.
She was 40 years old when she had a heart attack.
However, she didn’t even know she had one, because she didn’t know the signs or symptoms.
It started when she felt a bubble in her throat.
“It felt like this little bubble needed to come out,” Holgate said.
She admitted she thought she just had to burp.
Then she got hot.
“It felt like I was on fire,” she said.
Sweat poured down in buckets.
She hopped in the shower, hoping that would help.
In the shower, her arms felt heavy, like when you are working hard above your head and drop your arms.
However, Holgate knew her family had a history of heart disease.
When she got out of the shower, her husband said, “Let’s go to the hospital.”
He drove to town and the hospital.
When they arrived, Holgate recalls hearing the nurse starting to talk – then she was out.
“They had to use the paddles on me twice,” she said. “STARS took me to Calgary.”
Holgate said when she had her heart attack, she thought there had to be a reason. Was it weight? Was it because she drank or smoked?
The cardiologist disspelled those concerns quickly.
In fact, Holgate was born with this condition.
“I just think it’s really important we check on each other,” she said, adding women tend to ignore the symptoms.
After her heart attack, Holgate realized her mental health had also been suffering.
“I went crazy,” she said, adding she spent some time in hospital.
She observed it was her head not her heart, showing how important mental health is. Plus, stress is a big factor for heart attacks.
Since then Holgate has had a defibrillator implanted, and she lives on.
“Look after yourselves,” look after each other,” she said.
Kendis Kirkendall is a personal trainer and owns a gym in town.
She shared her own journey of weight loss.
First, Kirkendall looked up some statistics in preparation for the evening.
She found that every 22 minutes a woman in Canada dies of heart disease. That adds up to 24,000 per year.
There is a lot of information on heart health for men, she noted, but not for women.
Heart health can be maintained by things such as keeping a healthy weight, exercising, reducing stress, staying active and more.
“What do I have to offer?’ she asked.
So she shared her story.
When she got into the gym 12 years ago, she was 220 pounds.
She lived a sedentary life, was in a bad marriage, and knew she had to do something.
“I found the gym,” she said.
At one point she decided to check out diet pills. As she did more research she saw the common denominator was water. Everything involved taking in water.
So, she drank more water, looked at her diet, and used portion control too.
In a year, Kirkendall lost 90 pounds.
She was also certified as a trainer.
Then, she needed hip surgery, and gained 60 pounds. After the surgery, she lost 60 pounds.
Now, she said, she has the privilege of working with people every day to achieve their goals in their own way.
“For whatever way people want to move, there’s a way,” Kirkendall said. “It’s really about finding what sparks joy.”
She said exercise also improves mental health.
“I’m excited I get to share that with people,” she said.
She also pointed out a healthy diet is important, but balance is important too.
“I hope my story can help one person or get one person moving,” Kirkendall said.
Mental health
Elaine Schow is a mental health counsellor who also taught nursing.
“We need to be aware of what cardiac episodes look like,” she said.
Her focus was mental health. She described it as individual to every person, but involves well-being, joy in life, having people who care and more.
Schow planned to talk about mental health and cardiac disease, and what people can do.
She noted depression is one of the biggest risk factors for heart disease, adding sometimes mental health gets left behind.
Schow observed women look out for others before themselves.
She asked what do women find stressful and what can be done to reduce it?
People need connection with others.
“That to me is what mental health is,” Schow said.
Sleep is also very important, she observed.
Schow encouraged everyone to ask themselves, is there something they can do to reduce stress.
For stress management, it isn’t about big changes. Instead ask, “What can I do today to bring joy into my life?”
She also advised everyone to let out their feelings and not stuff them down inside.
“Our feelings are our feelings,” Schow said.
She also noted people can experience more depression after a cardiac event too.
“We know we need to take really good care of ourselves,” Schow said. “Take care of each other and take care of yourself.”
Movement and mental health
Lise LeMoine started with aerobics and is now a certified nia practitioner.
She said she uses fitness for mental health.
LeMoine then took everyone in attendance through some chair yoga, to show them how easy it is.
She stressed it is not that much effort to work some movement into every-day life. In fact, moving to one song a day will add up.
“Five minutes (is) one song,” LeMoine said. “That’s all it takes.”