Joy Seijo could tell something was wrong.
At 53 years old, the Jacksonville woman had been visiting a rheumatologist for some time because of aches and pains all over her body. But more recently she’d noticed a pain in her chest and made sure her doctor knew about it.
Seijo was referred to a cardiologist and soon after that doctors placed three artery stents and a heart pacemaker in her body.
“I learned I had 85 to 95 percent blockage in my heart,” Seijo said. “If you’re feeling something is wrong in your body, push — let your doctors know.”
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, according to experts, and an area community group highlighted the issue as part of a national day of awareness on Friday.
Seijo was one of several guest speakers for the local observance of National Day of Red for Women, organized by the Anniston alumni chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority at the Oxford Civic Center on Friday. More than 100 people attended the event, which included a health fair — and what was billed as a heart-healthy luncheon.
The American Heart Association helped start the National Wear Red Day event 15 years ago to create public awareness about cardiovascular disease among women.
Marie Rhoden, president of the Anniston chapter, said her organization tries to help the community, from raising money for college scholarships to donating food and clothing for the needy, and the Friday health fair was no different.
“It is our goal to make you aware of the silent killer, heart disease,” Rhoden told the audience.
According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease, which includes heart attacks and strokes, kills more women than all forms of cancer combined.
“People think that just men get heart disease, but that’s not the case,” said Dr. Mohamed Jasser, an Anniston cardiologist and the main speaker at the event. “If you are a woman and you get chest pain or have sudden shortness of breath, you should come in and get checked.”
Jasser said that 40 percent of women who are 50 years old have some sort of cardiovascular disease. Women with other health issues like diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking and sedentary lifestyles have higher chances of cardiovascular disease, Jasser added.
Lisa Scott, a physical therapist at Regional Medical Center in Anniston, said the heart is a muscle, and the best way to take care of it is to exercise.
“A brisk walk is honestly the best thing,” Scott said.
Scott said experts recommend people get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day to help prevent heart disease.
Ruth Moffatt, 50, of Etowah County said at the event that she routinely walks and watches her diet to help manage her heart condition, called mitral valve prolapse, which can cause heart murmurs. Moffatt said she was 16 years old when she learned she had the heart condition after passing out one day.
“The message I have is to maintain your diet and exercise,” Moffatt said. “And pay attention to your daughters, because you just don’t think that something like that can affect a young person, but it does.”