Un-Break Her Heart
Toni Braxton Faces Her Heart Disease With Courage
At the time of her episode, Braxton had given birth to her second son,
Diezel, only five-and-a-half months earlier. She attributed her extreme fatigue
to the new baby, despite the fact that she hadn't experienced the same level of
exhaustion with her first child, Denim. And even though she was "crazy
tired," she pushed on and immersed herself in Aida rehearsals.
A month before the incident, she also started having tightness and pain in
the left side of her chest, but she again dismissed those sensations, this time
attributing them to childhood asthma. And, being in her 30s, Braxton never
thought a heart ailment could strike someone so young.
"When I was first told I had pericarditis, I said 'peri - what?' I had
no idea what it was. I thought it was an older person's disease," she
Today, Braxton knows better. And as a spokesperson for the American Heart
Association's "Red Dress" campaign, she's on a mission to educate women
about their health -- especially women who think, like she once did, that it
can't happen to them. She now advises women to become more proactive and
involved in their health care. "Know what [medication] you're taking and
why," she says. "Know what you're treating."
"I'm the poster child for women and people all over the world," says
Braxton. "If it happened to me, it can happen to you. We can prevent it, we
can fix it! Sometimes people get scared. They'll say, 'I don't want to go to
the doctor, they might find something.' It's OK because you can get it taken
care of. That's more important."
When it comes to health, the biggest mistake women make is never putting
themselves first, she says.
"A lot of times, we don't have the time, but you've got to squeeze
yourself in there some way. Women are so used to taking care of the household,
the kids, and everything else, they always put themselves last."
Nieca Goldberg, MD, a cardiologist who heads women's cardiac care at Lenox
Hill Hospital in New York, agrees that women often brush symptoms aside. As
they juggle family and job obligations, women fear that everything around them
might collapse if they had to go to the hospital with a serious illness. With
time in such short supply, it's important, Goldberg says, to develop a support
network of friends and family members who can watch your child when you have a
doctor's appointment, ideally with a physician who can accommodate you during
early morning and evening hours.