This post is cross-posted at BlogHer.
I don't like to talk about illness. Yours, mine - You know, it's really not my cup of tea. Or anything I'd like to discuss over tea. Or anything I think anyone should discuss over tea, really. But you put on one hell of a show, get cool actors to perform readings and scenes, and you invite me... Well, coat my lessons with entertainment sugar, baby, and I'm there.
And that's how I found myself talking to Brenda Strong about heart disease, instead of my mother.
Metamucil invited me and two other bloggers, Sarah Flake from Hollywood Flakes and Kristin Fast from It's All Fun & Games, to attend a special performance in L.A. yesterday evening. It was put on by Events of the Heart, a non-profit organization dedicated to "telling the real truth about women and heart disease through the creative arts and the media." Fitness expert and personal trainer Valerie Waters was also there and recently started a blog called The Val Blog.
For us bloggers, the evening began with an intimate reception at the W Los Angeles, where we each got about ten minutes to talk to Brenda Strong, who sits on the board of Events of the Heart and who we would see perform later that night. I have to admit, Sarah asked her much cooler questions than me.
Living and breathing on the fringe of the entertainment industry, I was curious about the event itself. Certainly, a series of performances sounded much more appealing to *me* than attending one of a million fundraising galas and parties. Brenda explained that since one of the major goals of Events of the Heart is education, having actors perform entertaining and educational pieces was simply perfect.
Then we talked about heart disease. Something I never really think about despite the fact that I do the South Beach Diet - created by a cardiologist and I've read that book cover to cover - and my mother had a "heart event" last year. My Aunt also had heart events before she died a few years ago.
I didn't know that seemingly healthy, fit people can have rising cholesterol and be at risk for heart disease.
I didn't know that that's why fiber is so important. (I clearly just processed "fiber: good" when reading my South Beach Diet book.)
I'd heard that heart disease is "the #1 killer of women in America," but I didn't know that *I* needed to think about it and be proactive - even as I lament that I literally don't have time to exercise more than maybe once or twice a month, and I know that there's been heart disease in my family.
And I didn't know that much at all about my own mother's "heart event" - because I don't like to talk about illness.
So I called my mother today. And we talked about what happened to her, and I listened when she told me about her surgeries and treatments. I promised her that I'd tell you all about chewing aspirin, as recommended by the Mayo Clinic, because aspirin played an important part in maintaining her heart health throughout her experience:
For most people experiencing heart attack symptoms, doctors recommend chewing and swallowing one plain regular-strength aspirin or two to four baby aspirin. This recommendation still holds true if you are on daily aspirin therapy. Chewing the aspirin speeds up the absorption process and minimizes any delay in the beneficial effects of aspirin.
If you have certain bleeding disorders, you should not take an aspirin during a heart attack, and you're also not a candidate for daily aspirin therapy.
Don't take aspirin if you think you're having a stroke, because not all strokes are caused by blood clots; some are caused by ruptured blood vessels. Taking aspirin could make a bleeding stroke more severe.
Back to the event, Brenda and I talked about how women (and I think men, too) really learn to ignore what's going on with them and try to push through any pain, discomfort and fatigue; and about how I'm only now learning to listen to my body and be proactive about my health; and how she takes her Metamucil (plain, mixed in with her Emergen-C).
Then later, I enjoyed excellent performances by Eva Longoria, Brenda Strong, Kathleen Madigan, Markie Post, Stephen Collins, Alex Kapp Horner, Dana Delany, Annalynne McCord, Judy Gold, Cynthia Adler, Holland Taylor, and Jeffery Tambor, of "You've Gotta Have Heart" at the Geffen Playhouse.
The benefit performance of "You've Gotta Have Heart" is a theatrical piece told through the real life story of [Events of the Heart founder] Pamela Serure whose mantra of "all things healthy" shattered when she had a triple by-pass in her 40's. It explores the question what is at the heart of women today? and chronicles the jigsaw puzzle surrounding matters of the heart.
Honestly, I wasn't sure what to expect, but I chuckled when I heard the performance referred to as "The Angina Monologues." When we got into the theater we had great, third row seats (I was totally psyched), and I could see a line of chairs with binders. Ah! I thought, because Hunky Actor Boyfriend's theater group just did a staged reading benefit this month. So most of the actors weren't off book - something that allows for a relaxed, intimate atmosphere. The pieces ranged from funny, to touching, to funny and touching. Hard to pick a favorite, but Taylor and Tambor performed the last, rather conceptual piece about a wife who "carries" her husband's heart with her, and they had the whole audience tearing up. If Events of the Heart comes your way, I definitely recommend the evening.
All that heart education went down so bittersweet.
Women are often misdiagnosed when they come in with symptoms of heart disease. In a recent experiment, actors went all around the country visiting doctors with symptoms of heart disease. 100% of the men were given the EKG test - but only 50% of the women were tested. The rest were sent home.
Sadly, some say death is the number one symptom of heart disease for women because it is so frequently misdiagnosed. Stephen Collins' monologue was about a doctor who sends a woman home without giving her an EKG - very sad.
Cynthia Adler had us laughing hysterically with her portrayal of "Gwendolyn Bradford," a woman unconcerned about heart disease even after her triple bypass.
The whole evening was so good for my heart.
Metamucil gave us goody bags with a canister of their Pink Lemonade drink mix (which actually tastes good; I tried it and was surprised), a copy of Pamela Serure's book, "Take It to Heart: The Real Deal On Women and Heart Disease," and a booklet and little dining guide from the National Fiber Council.
And to recap:
- Even healthy, fit people need to watch their cholesterol, particularly if they have a family history of heart disease.
- Fiber is the key to a heart healthy diet.
- Heart disease is the #1 killer of women. One in three Caucasian women and one in two African American women and Latina women are effected. Heart disease kills more women than all the cancers combined.
- I really don't want to have a heart attack, so I'm about to start paying attention to my heart health!
The Blogosphere Speaks:
Heart Attack - Symptoms for Women - JoAnn shares her experience.