Un-Break Her Heart
Toni Braxton Faces Her Heart Disease With Courage
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.
An additional barrier is that women do not perceive heart
disease as a real problem. According to the American Heart Association,
less than 20% of women consider heart disease a threat, despite the fact that
it's the No. 1 killer of women, taking more women's lives than all forms of
cancer, including breast cancer.
"Instead of wasting your time worrying about symptoms, just get it
checked out," says Goldberg, who has had many patients confess to her,
after a medical procedure, that they hadn't been feeling well for a long time.
"Women are very in touch with their bodies, and they know when something is
Mona Lisa Schulz, MD, a neuropsychiatrist and the author of Awakening
Intuition and the newly published The New Feminine Brain, also
believes that women inherently know when something is amiss and should be more
willing to act on it.
"It's important that women always attend to the first symptoms in their
bodies," she says. "These symptoms are part of the feminine brain's
intuition that lets you know something is out of balance in your life. The
sense of warning and foreboding increases and escalates until you actually get
an illness. Your body has to get your attention because every symptom is part
of the body's way of saying that something needs to be attended to."