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Is it elephant big ... or steamship big?

Most of the time, when I'm speaking to groups, I like to open with the question: Just how big of a problem is heart disease?

What may seem big to me, may not seem big to you.

So, is it elephant big ... or steamship big? Over 17-million people in our country have heart disease - those are just the ones who have been diagnosed. That's more than the entire population of both North and South Carolina combined! Think about those who don't know they have it. National studies show that only about half of the women in our country know that heart disease is their biggest health threat and that it claims more lives than ALL of the cancers combined. We don't think twice about getting a mammogram or colonoscopy. When it comes to our heart health we don't seem to make it the priority it needs to be. I'd say this is is steamship big, wouldn't you? But, do you want to know the part that really gets me? If 80% of the risk factors that lead to a disease ... ANY disease ... can be prevented or managed ... then that means there is HOPE! Right? That means we don't have to lose over 600,000 loved ones to this disease every year. When I read studies that through lifestyle changes and early interventions HALF of those people could have been saved, I just want to scream it to the top of my lungs: It does NOT have to be this way! And, I say this as a heart attack survivor with all the love I can muster: we are perishing - and setting our youth up to perish - from a (largely) self-inflicted disease. Does genetics play a part? Yes, of course ... but it isn't a foregone conclusion. No more than having great DNA and not taking care of your heart health won't lead to a bad outome, too. For me, genetics played a big part, but hindset is a great teacher. The first thing I learned after my heart attack was pretty much everything I thought I knew about heart disease was from a man's perspective. I missed warning signs because I didn't know the ones unique to women! This is one of the reasons we launched The Heart2Heart Foundation in January of 2013. There are a lot of women (and men) out there just like me. We wanted our work to focus on educating women and their families about prevention and healthy lifestyles choices that would not only prevent heart disease but about 40 other diseases including several forms of cancer. We intentionally made early detection of heart disease through basic and advance screenings a high priority. We also made a commitment that the funds we raise to support our work stay in the communities we serve.

Since our launch in 2013, our grassroots organization has helped close to 7,300 women and men learn their risk for heart disease and how to win the fight against our #1 killer. In addition to that, we've distributed free heart health educational resources to more than 35,000 adults and youth through our community, corporate and faith-based programs.

Our outreach programs are free and funded by local friends, like you, who believe in our mission. Through our incredible volunteers and collaborative partnerships, we are able to touch so many lives who may have simply fallen through the cracks. The interesting thing about our work is that it doesn't see race ... it doesn't see gender ... it doesn't see what's in your bank account. Heart disease is striking women and men younger and younger and in alarming numbers. Heart disease is something too many of us have in common! Each of us have the power to change this ... and it begins ... with that person we see in the mirror each day. It doesn't have to be this way ... you can be that difference! Make sure you follow us on Facebook or visit our website to learn about programs and events near you. If we've helped you in some way, I'd love to hear your story. Who knows, your story might inspire someone else to take that next step!

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