Go Red for Women: Ladies, Take It From Susan Lucci & Prioritize Your Heart Health by 30Seconds Mom
Around noon the day after two stents were inserted into her heart, Susan Lucci came home from the hospital, went upstairs to her bedroom and changed clothes. She walked out ready to attend a lunch celebrating a friend's birthday.
Her son, Andreas Huber, had driven to Long Island from Manhattan to check on her. Seeing her come downstairs dressed for an outing, Andreas said, "Mom, what are you doing?"
Susan was doing what she'd always done. At 71, she was a healthy, active woman with a packed calendar, personally and professionally. She had a commitment, so she was going to fulfill it.
Her son's reaction provided the reality check she needed. And part of the reason Susan is sharing the story of her heart episode is to provide a reality check for others.
Photo: American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown (left) and Susan Lucci (center) at a Go Red for Women function in New York.
While her primary aim is drawing attention to the warning signs of heart disease and the need to get medical care right away, this day-after scene encapsulates two more key messages she wants to relate:
- The importance of women prioritizing their own health.
- The emotional stages a person must go through to get comfortable with becoming a survivor.
"Mom," Andreas said, "nobody would fault you for not showing up at the birthday party."
Susan relented. She changed into a robe and rested that afternoon, beginning what was essentially the first day of the rest of her life – her new life as someone who'd narrowly avoided the type of heart attack known as the widow maker.
The day before, Susan had been buying her friend's birthday present when she felt a tightening in her chest that radiated around her rib cage to her back. She'd experienced a similar, milder sensation twice in the previous two weeks. This time it was more intense.
Likening it to "an elephant pressing on my chest," Susan remembered hearing a woman use those words to describe the start of her heart attack. Fearing the same, Susan went straight to the hospital. Doctors found a nearly 90 percent blockage in the artery that supplies most of the blood to her heart. A 75 percent blockage was found in another artery. She underwent an emergency procedure that restored full blood flow in both damaged arteries.
Thanks in part to her remarkable fitness, Susan headed home the next morning. As her husband drove, Susan looked out the window at the streets of Garden City, New York, the town where she grew up and lives to this day.
"My goodness," she thought. "I feel like I haven't seen these trees or the sky in the longest time."
Photo: Susan Lucci walks the runway at the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women Red Dress Collection fashion show in New York City on February 7. (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for AHA)
Susan got into Pilates back in the 1970s. That prompted her to clean up her diet, trading cheeseburgers and tacos for a Mediterranean diet heavy on salads and fish. She considered these changes good for her health, good for her career – and good for her family. After all, the healthier and more vibrant she was, the more she could do for her husband, children and, now, grandchildren.
In other words, prioritizing her health is smart, not selfish. However, she fears that far too many women are reluctant to do the same.
"As women, we're not on our own to-do list," she said. "We are nurturing others. That's what we do, and we have places to go and people to see, and we don't think we can fit it into our schedules. What I'm saying is listen to your symptoms, and don't be afraid that you are overreacting or taking any doctor's precious time. If you think something needs medical attention, pay attention and go to the doctor. Go to the hospital."
Photo (main): Susan Lucci backstage before the Red Dress Collection fashion show. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for AHA)
Source: American Heart Association
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