Sharon Bond’s heart attack at age 47 caught her by surprise. She never understood that she was at risk or really knew what heart disease was. Like most people, she would see ads and commercials on TV, but ignored them because ‘it could never happen to her.’ That all changed in 2011 when she had a heart attack and subsequent open-heart surgery.
It started with a sudden onset of dizziness and a trip to her primary care physician, where an EKG detected a heart murmur. Doctors sent her home with blood pressure medication and told her it wasn’t alarming.
About a week later the dizziness returned, along with shortness of breath and she began struggling to walk up hill. Then she experienced sharp pain that went across her lower back, down her legs and up her back. It wasn’t until she arrived at the hospital that doctors confirmed she’d had a heart attack caused by hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a disease in which the heart muscle becomes abnormally thick and makes it harder for the heart to pump blood.
She was rattled, but the news that shocked Sharon came next: doctors informed her that she was born with this heart disease and it had gone undetected for 47 years. If she wanted to see 48, she needed immediate open-heart surgery, the doctors said.
Sharon survived the surgery and today is an advocate for women’s heart health.
“I am proud to be a volunteer with the American Heart Association because I want more women to know that heart attack can impact them,” she says. “We must all help each other stay health and informed so that we can make the best decisions for our hearts and minds.”
Sharon encourages all women to know their risk factors. That includes family history, high blood pressure, excess body weight and elevated cholesterol. But, most importantly, she reminds women to ‘trust your instinct.’
“If you don’t’ fell right, speak with your doctor, call 9-1-1. Do what it takes to get the appropriate care,” she says.
Now, almost a decade removed from her heart attack, Sharon is committed to living her best life. She shares her experience as a volunteer for the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women movement, is starting her own foundation, the Heart Speaks Foundation to help women like herself and helps young people by working with the Dyckman Youth Worldwide basketball league in Manhattan.
Diego is the Communications Director for the American Heart Association in New York City. He loves sharing powerful stories that inspire people to take control of their health.