By Jenny Wohosky, RN
There is good news here on the North Coast! At CMH, we have a support group for women to help them learn about heart disease, including how to prevent or how to manage and live more fully once diagnosed. Why is this such good news? Did you know that 48 million American women are living with heart disease? Heart disease kills more Americans every year than all cancers — combined! Even more sobering is the fact that women die of their heart disease symptoms 50% more frequently than male counterparts. Women are also 50% less likely to be referred to Cardiac Rehab and 50% less likely to complete the 3-month program. There are many factors that contribute to those shocking statistics, including the fact that women take care of others, but too frequently put themselves last. There is still much to be learned about heart disease.
Through the efforts of Dr. Diana Rinkevich, WomenHeart, the National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease, was established at CMH in 2013. In October 2013, CMH sent volunteer Michele Abrahams, a woman living with heart disease, for training at the Mayo Clinic to become a WomenHeart Champion. WomenHeart Champions are the “boots on the ground” in the fight against heart disease. They are women with heart disease who have been trained to share their stories and important messages to empower women to take charge of their heart health.
When she returned, Michele established the WomenHeart of the North Oregon Coast, and the group has been growing ever since. Our chapter is the first and only WomenHeart support group in the state of Oregon. CMH not only helped establish the chapter, but has made the additional commitment to our community by becoming a National Hospital Alliance (NHA) member of WomenHeart. The WomenHeart NHA is comprised of hospitals committed to advancing women’s heart health. The partnership seeks to ensure female heart disease patients in every community have access to information, education and support services.
In 2016, following about 13 years of misdiagnosis with worsening symptoms, I was diagnosed with heart disease. After successful treatment and graduation from CMH’s Cardiac Rehab program, and with the support of my family, friends and CMH work family, I felt convicted that no woman should have to go through the missteps, minimization and misdiagnosis I went through. At the time, our NHA representative, Leslie Claterbos, asked if I would like to become a WomenHeart Champion. I said YES before I even knew what that meant.
Together, Michele and I facilitate the support group. Last October, two more ladies became trained as WomenHeart Community Educators, Teresa Bernards and Susan Wormer Smith. These women are dedicated to education and outreach in our community, spreading the message of women and their risk for heart disease.
WomenHeart meets 10 times a year on the third Wednesday of the month at 6:30pm in the Coho Room (2021 Marine Dr.). We don’t meet in August or December. Meetings include a heart-healthy dinner, courtesy of the CMH/OHSU Cardiology Clinic. For more information, visit the national WomenHeart website or email us at WH-NorthOregonCoast@womenheart.org. You can also call your WomenHeart Support Network Coordinators: Michele Abrahams, 503-338-8435 and Jenny Wohosky, 503-741-7940, or our WomenHeart Community Educators: Teresa Anna Bernards, 503-820-9656 and Susan Smith, 520-419-1741.
We hope women reading this will attend our next meeting on April 17. Our topic will be Peripheral Artery Disease. Bring your mothers, sisters, wives and female friends!
Media Contact: Nancee Long, 503-338-4504
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