‘Go Red For Women' raises awareness of heart disease risk

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PITTSBURGH - It was less than three years ago when Amy Heinl had emergency heart surgery.

She was working out and noticed something odd.

"Ten minutes into the workout I felt severe pain across my entire chest. I thought I pulled a muscle, " she said.

A few minutes later, Heinl collapsed and a friend called 911.

At the hospital, doctors diagnosed her with spontaneous coronary artery dissection, or SCAD, a very rare and fatal heart condition.

Heinl had surgery to repair a 2½-inch tear in her left main artery.

"I considered myself a healthy woman and for this to happen to me, it was shocking," she said.

It took weeks to recover.

"The first time I went to cardiac rehab and they said we are going to get your on the treadmill, I started crying, 'I cannot get on that treadmill,'" she recalled

But she was motivated.

"Three months after my heart surgery I ran my first 5k," she said, showing Channel 11's Jennifer Abney a picture of the accomplishment.

The busy mom of three is one of the Go Red Women of the American Heart Association's national campaign.

Feb. 1 marks the 10-year of the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women movement, fighting to raise awareness about a woman's risk of heart disease

Heinl's story of survival is also features in this month's Woman's Day magazine.

"The message is and the title here is 'slow down,'" she said. "I mean, how often do women take care of other people in their lives and don't take time for ourselves? I want to be here for my kids, when they get married when they have kids."

She hopes her story will lead to more research and awareness of her rare form of heart disease.

"I can also share with other women who live with heart disease on a daily basis that it's OK to go back to living a normal healthy lifestyle. By making some small changes and just broadening the awareness, we can fight this," Heinl said.

The signs of a heart attack for women include pressure or pain in the chest, arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach. They also include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, light-headedness or shortness of breath.