Starting a PULSE Across the Nation: Why Heart Health Matters Most to Me
“The morning of September 12, 2012 I had a stroke. I was an athletic and healthy 24-year-old who had no idea what the stroke symptoms were. Despite my lack of knowledge I was one of the lucky few that received treatment in time. I was given a TPA or ‘clot-busting’ shot with very few minutes to spare in the three-hour window for which the drug could be used post-stroke onset. Miraculously, I have no residual effects on my brain. Since then I have dedicated much of my time to sharing my personal story with others to encourage stroke prevention and awareness. It is imperative to educate the next generation of community leaders about heart health and stroke prevention,” says Bri Winkler, a fellow PULSE committee member from the American Heart Association (AHA) Los Angeles Chapter.
We are inundated with numbers and statistics on a daily basis. At times these statistics can seem just like mere numbers or they can seem so overwhelming that we are left asking ourselves, "Where do we even start to solve the problem?" What is even more amazing is how these numbers can begin to represent a unique story, with a much deeper meaning when replaced with the face of a loved one or a peer.
I began my journey with the American Heart Association in April 2012 as a desire to prevent the preventable. I wanted to align myself with an organization that was making a measurable impact in improving the cardiovascular health of our nation through education, research, and advocacy.
While a graduate student of public health, I was bombarded with alarming facts: heart disease strikes someone in the US every 34 seconds; 32 percent of American children and 68 percent of American adults are overweight or obese; and direct and indirect costs of cardiovascular disease and stroke totals more than $315.4 BILLION, which includes health expenditures and loss of productivity. But you also learn that by adhering to specific health behaviors, like maintaining a healthy diet and body weight, engaging in regular physical activity, and living a smoke-free life, your risk for developing heart disease or having a stroke can diminish greatly.
On January 4, 2013 my journey with the American Heart Association took a new turn and became much more personal when my dad began suffering of angina, or pain due to lack of oxygen-rich blood flow to the heart muscle, while riding his bike on vacation. Remember what I said about statistics being "mere numbers"? At the hospital, it was revealed that his artery was 95 percent occluded, or blocked, requiring the placement of stent in his artery. Fortunately, there was no damage to the heart muscle, and today he is back on his bike, having logged hundreds of miles, since. Over the course of our many conversations one thing that he said that has resonated with me was the fact that he felt like he was "lucky" to be alive. He was fortunate enough to have received high quality care at the right time.