Georgians living with heart disease urge women to be proactive

ATLANTA – Two Atlanta women are sharing their life-threatening experiences with heart disease to help raise awareness about the danger.

Heart disease is the No.1 killer of women, causing 1 in 3 deaths, according to the American Heart Association.

Learn more 12:30 p.m. Sunday on "People 2 People." 

Marie Marsden, of Peachtree City, had just moved to Atlanta in 2002 with her two young children when she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, a hole in her lungs and heart disease, triggered by pregnancy.

“I couldn't walk probably 10 feet without feeling like I was going to pass out,” Marsden said. “Not only was I 28, they told me I had the heart of an 80-year-old woman.”

Marsden, now 42, relies on a special device to keep her heart pumping, and just last week she began paperwork to be put on a heart transplant list.

Another survivor, Claire Dunlap of Buckhead, was only 15 years old when she went into sudden cardiac arrest after playing softball. Doctors told her she was without oxygen for five minutes. Until that day, Dunlap had played for 12 years with no sign of a heart problem

Claire and Marie are partnering with the American Heart Association to spread two important messages: first, get educated.

“If that trainer wouldn't have been there to give me CPR I wouldn't be here today. If that firefighter wasn't there to use the AED I wouldn't bet here today,” Claire told WSB-TV.

The second piece of advice: get healthy.

"You're running crazy, taking care of everybody else, what good does it do if you're no longer here?” Marsden said.

As Marsden waits on her own life-saving transplant, she is asking women everywhere to be proactive.

“Pay attention, take care of yourself, get screened. These are things that you can’t see. You can't take it for granted,” she said.

According the the American Heart Association, the following are signs of a heart attack in women:

  • Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
  • As with men, women's most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.

From Feb. 12-25, Kroger, one of WSB-TV’s Family 2 Family underwriters, is joining the fight against heart disease by partnering with the American Heart Association.

When shoppers purchase red paper hearts at the checkout, the money will go to support the American Heart Association’s mission to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. The goal is to raise $200,000.

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