Go Red luncheon event focuses on heart health

PARKERSBURG – When Julia Soja had a heart attack in 2011, she knew what was happening, but she didn’t want to believe it.

She didn’t smoke and had no family history of heart disease.

“I always (used to) brag, ‘I’ll never have a heart attack,'” the Parkersburg resident and former nurse anesthetist said. “I don’t brag anymore.”

Soja soon learned that in addition to the heart attack she recognized, she’d had a “silent” one earlier. Today, she follows heart health news and keeps up with her cardiac rehabilitation.

“I still come to exercise three times a week,” she said.

Soja was one of eight current and former Camden Clark Medical Center cardiac rehab patients who shared their stories Friday at the annual Go Red for Women lunch for CCMC employees at the hospital’s St. Joseph’s Campus. They also shared a bit of fashion, modeling clothing they picked out at Talbots in Vienna for a style show, a new addition to the annual event.

“We wanted our heart survivors to show how they’ve regained their life,” said Allison Maher, director of cardiovascular services for Camden Clark.

About 60 people attended the lunch, which Maher said is intended to raise awareness about how heart disease affects women.

“It’s not just a man’s disease anymore,” she said.

In fact, heart disease kills more women each year than all other diseases combined, said Gwen Crum, families and health agent for the West Virginia University Extension’s Wood County office and the guest speaker at the luncheon.

“Everybody knows that now. They don’t necessarily believe it,” Maher said. Having real people share their stories “helps you personalize – ‘this could really happen to me and what can I do to prevent it.'”

Crum outlined the “Love Your Heart” program the extension offers to provide education about women’s heart health, risk factors for heart disease and signs and symptoms of potential problems.

More information is available by contacting Crum at 304-424-1969 or visiting the extension’s website, ext.wvu.edu.

February is American Heart Month.