Aging population spurs need for women to make health last: Heart and Stroke Foundation
(NC)—Good fitness first saved Micheline Legault's life. Now, it's giving the 69-year-old a second life in her senior years
Nine years ago, Legault was taking her regular skate along Ottawa's Rideau Canal. An avid outdoors person, she was surprised to have trouble breathing. Just by chance, at that exact moment, Legault's husband called on her cell phone. He insisted she give her phone to a passerby, who immediately called the paramedics. Legault soon suffered a heart attack, lost consciousness and remained in a coma for three days.
Despite having a history of heart disease in her family, Legault didn't think she was at risk.
“I really thought heart disease happened to men more than women, so this was a real surprise to me,” said Legault.
Prior to her heart attack, Legault kept physically active all year round. She lives in Chelsea, Quebec, an outdoor enthusiast's Nirvana that features national parkland, a ski resort and a large trail system. Her cardiologist told Legault that her fitness level saved her life.
With women living longer, the Heart and Stroke Foundation is underlining the need for adult and senior women to embrace lifestyle choices to make health last. Since 1999, Bobbe Wood has championed innovative cardiovascular research, advocacy and public awareness initiatives on both the provincial and national levels. Wood, president of the foundation, has dedicated herself to improving awareness among women.
“Many women are unaware of, or simply ignore, the symptoms of heart attack and stroke. Women are less likely than men to believe they're having a heart attack or stroke, and more likely to delay treatment, putting their lives at risk,” says Wood, founder of the Canadian female-focused The Hearth Truth awareness campaign.
Heart disease and stroke is a leading cause of death for women in Canada, and kills seven times more women than breast cancer. Nine in 10 Canadian women have at least one significant risk factor for heart disease or stroke.
Since her heart attack, Legault says she has learned new ways to improve her diet.
“I'm definitely more careful with my diet after the heart attack,” says Legault. “I always check the labels when I go grocery shopping, I cook with olive oil instead of butter, eat smaller portions of meat and I don't eat things like cookies anymore.”
Legault and her husband celebrated the second anniversary of her heart attack by returning to the Rideau Canal. Her husband teared up as they skated hand in hand.
“That was very emotional for me, and even more so for my husband. When I was in a coma, he stayed by my bed for three days as I lay there unconscious. He thought he had lost his best friend. Even today, it's still very emotional for him,” she says.
Legault, says Wood, is an example of both sides of the spectrum: the need for women to be better informed of the risks of heart disease and stroke; and the potential for senior women to lead full and vital lives with time and energy for family, hobbies and outdoor pursuits.
Today, nine years later, Legault is doing everything she enjoys. She spends her winters skating, skiing and snowshoeing. During the summers, she plays tennis three times a week and can sometimes be found swimming in the Gatineau River.
Wood urges women to assess their risk for heart disease and stroke by taking the foundation's quiz at TheHeartTruth.ca/quiz.
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