Victim leads the charge

JULEEN Cavanaugh considers herself lucky to be alive.

The 58-year-old academic is a heart-attack survivor on a mission to fight the leading killer of Australian women – heart disease.

“I’m one of the lucky ones,” Juleen says.

“When I had my heart attack, I was lucky to be in a room with people who were sensible enough to recognise the signs.

“If I had been at home, I would have gone to bed and died.”

It is this experience with heart disease that has motivated Juleen to change her lifestyle and the Heart Foundation’s Healthy Heart Challenge is a part of that change.

Her commitment, as part of the 10-week Healthy Heart Challenge, is to exercise every day, covering four kilometres on the treadmill and fitting in a yoga session daily.

“I’ve lost 17 kilograms (since the heart attack in 2009) and I’d like to lose more,” she says.

“But the Healthy Heart Challenge is not about losing weight. For all women, it’s about being healthy.”

Juleen says community can play a big part in maintaining the motivation to be healthy and urges women to form exercise groups.

“We’re walking at lunchtime every week and anybody can do that.”

The Heart Foundation urges people to start or join walking groups, which are happening all across Canberra.

While Juleen wants women to improve their health, she also urges people to be aware of the signs of heart attack, saying she did not have the symptoms typical to men such as pain in one arm or pressure on the chest.

“You hear male heart attack survivors talk about feeling a lot of weight on the chest, but I had pain radiating from my chest – it was like something was trying to get out! I also had pain in both arms.”

Warning signs can include discomfort in the centre of your chest, discomfort in the upper body: arms, shoulders, neck, jaw or back as well as shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness or a cold-sweat.

Participants in the Healthy Heart Challenge choose to complete one of six goals. In turn, they will be supported by the Heart Foundation with an online tool to track progress during the challenge, a weekly eNewsletter with tips and information to stay motivated, and a range of healthy recipes to try at home.

For information or to find a walking group near you go to www.goredforwomen.org.au

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