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Group fighting to help women's hearts


Heart disease rampant, often ignored



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A group of heart disease survivors belonging to WomenHeart, an awareness group, toured the CorMatrix labs in Roswell. (click for larger version)

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Johns Creek resident Slohn Walsh, 2, with her father Willy. Slohn was born with a heart condition that required three open heart surgeries.

CHART What are the signs of a heart attack in women? • Chest discomfort, pain, squeezing, burning or mild-to-severe pressure in the chest that lasts more than a few minutes. • Upper body discomfort in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach. • Shortness of breath with or without discomfort. • Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, nausea and vomiting, cold sweats. • Feelings of anxiety, fatigue or weakness that are unexplained or after exertion. For more information, visit www.womenheart.org.
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September 27, 2013
ROSWELL, Ga. – Slohn Walsh, a 2-year-old girl from Johns Creek, looks like a normal little girl should look. She acts like one too. However, despite her young age, she has already had three open heart surgeries.

"If you didn't know, you wouldn't think there was anything wrong with her," her father, Willy, said. "She's on blood thinners every day. She's OK now, though. She's a happy baby."

Slohn was born with a congenital heart defect, which is one of the most common birth defects in children.

Little Slohn was taken on a tour of Roswell's CorMatrix labs Sept. 17 along with women from the WomenHeart group, a national organization dedicated to raising awareness of heart disease in women. CorMatrix designs and makes heart patches that replace damaged heart tissue.

Ann Hulett, the Atlanta district leader, said WomenHeart was formed in 1999 by three women who found common ground in heart disease.

"All had heart attacks in their early 40s," Hulett said. "But they noticed there was a disparity in their treatments."

Women often ignore potential heart problems, said Hulett, and heart problems in women are overlooked by the medical community.

"I was in my early 40s when I had a heart attack," Hulett said. "I went to the emergency room and was told it was a pinched nerve in my neck."

She went back and was again dismissed as having a pinched nerve.

"The symptoms are different and women tend to overlook heart disease," she said. "They are busy taking care of other people and ignore their own problems."

One in three women will die of heart disease, she said, however, because so much about heart disease education is aimed toward men that women don't know what to look out for.

"I had open heart surgery when I was 37," said Rebecca Ferrante, a member of WomenHeart. "I had two friends who died in their sleep. They didn't know they had heart issues until after they were dead. It could have been prevented if they knew the signs and symptoms."

For more information about WomenHeart, visit them online at www.womenheart.org.

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