COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - People are wearing red here in the Midlands and across the nation this Friday. The month of February is American Heart Month and the American Heart Association’s “Go Red for Women Movement" is celebrating the kickoff to the campaign with Wear Red Day.
Mayor Steve Benjamin will proclaim Feb. 1 National Wear Red Day along with the American Heart Association, volunteers and survivors on Friday at noon. This will take place at Columbia City Hall.
Heart disease is the number one killer of women, taking more lives than all forms of cancer combined. People of all ages are affected. But heart disease and stroke claim the lives of 1 in 3 women and the American Heart Association says it’s time to change that.
Nearly 80% of cardiac events can be prevented through education and lifestyle changes.
This year, Sarah Beth Sheridan is one of five Faces of Heart, local spokeswomen for the Midlands' “Go Red for Women” campaign. After two years of having passing out spells, bad headaches, and struggling to breathe at times, Sarah found out just 12 weeks ago that she has Wolff Parkinson White Condition, meaning she has an extra electrical circuit in her heart.
She’s just 18-years-old.
“It was a complete shock. No one in my family had heart problems. I honestly didn’t even know teenagers could have hearts problems," she said. “I knew it was possible, but I didn’t know that it was common and so I thought ‘I’m an 18-year-old girl. I’m a varsity cheerleader. I’ve been cheering for eight years. I work out one to three times a day. I eat healthy.’ I never thought that it could happen to me."
Midlands American Heart Association Executive Director, Amanda Butler, says “Our survivors are truly the heartbeat of what we do and they raise awareness so selflessly. They’re just so willing to share their story with others because their story can help save someone’s life.”
Sheridan says she’s speaking out about her experience because, “I don’t want other teenagers, or other women or other men to not know the signs and to maybe have their heart condition go unnoticed because when my mom and I were leaving the surgeon’s office, right before my surgery, he leaned over to my mom and said that I was lucky I wasn’t a statistic. That, at any time I could’ve fallen when I was cheering, and passed out and maybe not have ever woken up.”
Sheridan recently had surgery to correct her condition, and no longer has Wolff Parkinson White.
The impact of heart disease can be felt right here in the Midlands.
“There are enough people in the Midlands with high blood pressure to fill Williams-Brice Stadium four times and there are over 50,000 people living with heart disease. So, we have a lot of work to do here in the Midlands,” Butler said.
The American Heart Association is having multiple events over the next several month to promote healthy lifestyles. For a full list, visit the website here.