Go Red campaign spotlights women’s heart health

Jan. 31, 2013 @ 06:18 PM

Dottie Covert never thought it would happen to her.
Like millions of other women, she had no inkling that there might be something wrong with her heart until strange symptoms manifested themselves one day. After a treadmill workout at the High Point Regional Hospital fitness facility 10 years ago, Covert, a diabetic, found herself sweating uncontrollably and feeling like her blood sugar was low.
The problem, she discovered, was much more serious.
An electrocardiogram test showed a solid black line, indicating that her heart was beating so fast, the test couldn’t record the spikes and dips that are typically seen on the test’s line tracings that show heart rhythms.
A decade and countless tests later, cardiologists still aren’t sure exactly what’s wrong with her heart. Four months ago, she had another episode, when she felt “strange sensations” in the middle of her chest. A test found no blockages in her arteries. She said a cardiologist looked at one of her test results and offered his best guess.
“He said he thinks it’s systemic heart disease. I’m not getting the proper amount of blood to the front chamber of the heart,” Covert said. “It seems they can’t pinpoint it.”
As frustrating as her ordeal has been, Covert, of Lexington, is doing everything she can to deal with her situation. She’s lowered her cholesterol, exercises regularly, watches her diet and gets regular heart checkups.
She’s also calling attention to the issue of women and heart disease through the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women Movement. Today is the 10th annual National Wear Red Day, in which people wear red to bring awareness to heart disease in women. The city of High Point is observing the day with a symbolic, 6-foot wooden red dress made by Covert’s husband, Wayne, that is on display in the lobby of City Hall. The public is invited to sign the dress as a pledge to live a heart-healthy life or as memorial to a loved one who died from heart disease.
City Human Relations Director Al Heggins brought the event to the city and has helped keep attention on the issue throughout the year by pulling together a Go Red committee of city employees that seeks to educate women about things they can do to prevent heart disease. 
“We want women who don’t have issues to make healthy choices and know the signs if your body is trying to tell you something is wrong,” Heggins said.
Covert, a two-time breast cancer survivor who works in administration for the High Point Fire Department, said she was stunned to learn that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, more deadly than all forms of cancer combined.
Heart disease affects more women than men, but often manifests itself differently. For instance, the telltale signs of a heart attack are more subtle for women than the extreme chest pain that is a hallmark of an attack for men. Until as recently as 10 years ago, she said women’s heart attack symptoms — shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain — were commonly misdiagnosed.
She said after her first episode at the fitness center 10 years ago, her initial instinct was to resume her regular activities rather than seek medical attention.
“That’s how women react. We’re the ones who take care of everyone else, so we have a tendency to think that nothing is wrong when something affects us,” she said.
Better awareness has paid off in recent years, according to the Go Red campaign, which reports that more than 627,000 women have been saved from heart disease, and 330 fewer are dying per day since the campaign began a decade ago.
pkimbrough@hpe.com | 888-3531