December 01, 2014

What if you had a heart attack and didn't feel it?

This is the story of Ruby Brown, who suffered a heat attack in the middle of the night while she slept.

But what was arguably worse than having a heart attack -- and not even feeling it -- was what her doctor had told her after it happened:

Brown recalls, "He said, 'You know, you shouldn't have woken up this morning...' and that definitely gave me a chill...I had awakened to a pain in my arm, thinking I had slept wrong on my shoulder, came downstairs, took two pain pills, and I went back to sleep. 

"And that's what the doctor was referring to when he said that I shouldn't have woken up after I went back to sleep. I understood what he was saying from a medical standpoint, but I also believe in another standpoint. I put the two together and I was grateful."

Talk about getting a wake-up call.

Ruby's unfortunate experience ended up being just the thing to lead her down a different path, a path that ultimately led to the American Heart Association's Better U Challenge.

The Better U Challenge is a 12-week challenge (concluding January 24, 2015), which aims to improve participants' heart health through various exercise classes and educational workshops. 

Better U initiative is a joint venture between AHA and St. John Providence Health System.

I'm delighted to have been chosen by the American Heart Association to serve as one of their 2015 Go Red for Women bloggers, and this post is my second in a series that will feature stories meant to motivate, educate, and, ultimately, help all of us become our very best. (To read our first Better U Challenge post, please click here.)

Here's Ruby's Better U Challenge journey in her own words...

1.       What was your experience like emotionally?
Immediately when I found out I was going in for the catheterization, the first image I saw in my mind was of my husband and daughter, and I was like, Boy, I need to make it through this because I don't want to leave them. I was just focused on my immediate family. Following the surgery, I was grateful that I had made it, and then my focus at that point was Now you need to do everything to make sure you stay well -- and that this doesn't happen again.

2.       How did you become familiar with the Better U challenge, and what inspired you to sign on?
I became aware of the challenge through my daughter, who is interning with the American Heart Association. And when she told me about the challenge, I found it ironic because I have always said that I wanted to do this and I wanted to do that, and I would start...but then I would stop. When my daughter told me that there would be a person monitoring me, I said, "Wow, this is the kick I need to get me to my goal."  

3.       Talk about your journey thus far…do you feel like you’re on a different path already?
So far, it's like I'm excited about it. For the first time, I'm pressing toward my goal. And the changes have been subtle: I'm watching what I'm eating, I'm thinking differently and not sweating the small stuff as they say, and I totally feel lighter from the inside out. 

4.       What do you ultimately hope to achieve from participating in this challenge?
My greatest goal would be letting others see that they can do it, too. 

5.       And speaking of challenges, you recently had one of your own since staring the Better U Challenge, right?
I have a quick story to share with you: My daughter and I just came back from vacationing at the Atlantis in the Bahamas. And my biggest fear going in was We just started zumba and we're going to miss Saturday's class...and I was bummed out about that, so our instructor told us to make sure we took walks on the beach for our workouts, etc. But my other fear was Boy, we're just going to mess up our eating while we're here. But what I realized was that -- consciously, in my mind -- I knew I wanted to eat [the bad stuff], but I was at a point where when I went to eat, I was like I don't want this. I couldn't believe it! And I reiterated this to my daughter. I said to her, "You do realize that I thought I was just going to really over-splurge on this trip." But, to the contrary, I was really eating basic, I wasn't over-doing it, and I wasn't stuffing myself. I was conscious of what I was doing. And I haven't been like that for a long time.

6.       What is your message to others, to those who may be on the fence about committing to this challenge?
I would tell that person to find someone who has been there and done that to be their life safety guard -- to help them when they're slipping. Someone who can pull them up. I think that would be the ticket for them. It is important to find that person who can be their support system. 


Better U challenge applicants are encouraged to take a short assessment here to receive their starting heart score and then register online here and select ‘Go Red’ for access to free classes and personal improvement sessions with life coaches and health experts.  

The American Heart Association recommends incorporating a balanced diet and obtaining at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week to improve heart health. 

Along the way, individuals are encouraged to post their before and new-me-in-progress photos using the hashtag #MIBetterU on Twitter or Facebook

Click here to check out the holiday giveaways we're hosting!

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  1. I am so glad she survived and is making good choices and changes. A vacation would be a toughie.
    My husband had a heart attack on the 19th... he had the cheest pains but rather than classic left arm pain was the right side. I gave him an asprin just in case since we werent sure, got my coat oon helped him into his, and got in the truck and blew the lights all the way to the hospital. I am so glad we didnt wait- the DR said he had about 10 more inutes and had we waited for an ambulance he wouldnt be with me.
    He has heart diseas in his family (young deaths before 50) so he has always been kind of careful but now gone are the days of wings at football and the fried things he would have while out.
    I was told in the heart unit and in ICU many women dont feel the heart attacks and thats scary.

    1. Ellen, I am literally floored by your story. I can't even begin to imagine the bevy of emotions your husband, of course, felt...but I know you must have been quite emotional through all this yourself -- and that's putting it mildly.

      Thanks for sharing this -- and for taking the time to visit in the first place...

      I wish your husband (and you) continued good health.


  2. This is a great cause. Heart disease is serious. My husband had 3 stints put in 2 years ago. Thanks for the info and have a good week! :)

    1. Oh, Lexa! I can't believe, wow. First, how is he doing now? Second, please know that I'm sending warm thoughts his way...

      Thank you for commenting, and I wish you both a smooth week as well.