Feb 272013


By Michael Abramowitz

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Eliz Greene of Milwaukee, Wis., is a woman with a mission — and a message that goes straight to the heart.

Greene, who travels several months each year throughout the United States, shared her story with a room packed mostly by women at Rock Springs Center. She and Dr. Noel Peterson, a physician with Eastern Cardiology and director of women’s cardiovascular disease and preventive medicine for the Heart Institute, were the featured speakers at the fifth annual Heart Truth Social, presented by the East Carolina Heart Institute at Vidant Medical Center and Vidant Edgecombe Hospital.

The event, now a fixture on the Greenville social calendar, was one of several the heart institute is featuring during American Heart Month.

When she was just 35 years old, Greene, now 47, suffered a heart attack while in the hospital to deliver her twin sons. Her heart stopped for 10 minutes just before she gave birth. But, as she said, if your heart is going to stop working, a hospital is a good place for that to happen.

“In the middle of all that was happening, weird things were going on inside,” Greene said. “I had a heartburn feeling, I threw up and felt shivery and cold. My obstetrician kept asking me questions about heart disease in my family and whether anyone in my family had a heart attack early in life. I just thought she must be crazy because I’m not having a heart attack. But that’s exactly what happened moments later.”

She was revived after her heart stopped beating. After delivering her babies, Greene was rushed to the operating room for emergency bypass surgery. She said she is in good health now, but has to work at it.

“It’s something I have to pay attention to every day,” she said.

She hardly looks like a heart attack survivor, but that’s the point, she said.

“That’s one of the reasons I do this tour, because I don’t look the part, and I always associated the disease with older people,” Greene said. “My experience changed my understanding of what heart disease is, and it gave me a mission. Going out and showing a different face of heart disease is really important. It’s not just a man’s disease or an old lady’s disease. It really does affect all of us.”

Greene shared the risk factors for heart disease with her audience, then explained that busy women can reduce the risk factors, manage stress and enhance their lives in the process. She had the audience of more than 300 on their feet and moving to music, one of several simple methods for recapturing and preserving heart health.

Peterson shared the chilling facts about heart disease, revealing that, while traditionally thought of as a man’s disease, is the primary killer of women, claiming more lives than all types of cancer combined.

“Women also present different symptoms than men, more subtle signs like indigestion, jaw pain, flu-like symptoms or lack of energy and tiredness,” Peterson said. “A lot of times, symptoms get missed or take longer to diagnose.”

The cardiologist spoke to increase women’s awareness and motivate them to get checked by a doctor when they experience any symptoms. She also wanted her audience to learn that heart disease is largely preventable.

“It’s true that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” Peterson said. “People here in the ‘heart and stroke belt’ share common risk factors like obesity and hypertension combined with a sedentary lifestyle.”

It was not all science and physiology, though. One of the annual highlights of the event has been the Wear Red fashion show. Employees from the Heart Institute and Vidant Edgecombe Hospital featured red outfits and strutted their fashion-fitted message of heart health to match the mood.

It all fit together for the professionals and for Greene, who were hoping their audience got the point.

“It’s not rocket science,” Greene said. “We all know about moving more and eating better. But when you connect what you’re supposed to do with things that you really value, that’s the magic.”

Contact Michael Abramowitz at 252-329-9571 or at mabramowitz@reflector.com.

via The Daily Reflector.


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