Modesta Colon vividly recalls the symptoms of a mild heart attack that she experienced three years ago. She felt nausea, dizziness and some discomfort in her chest—but she didn’t know at the time that she was actually suffering a heart attack.
When doctors informed her of what happened, Colon was stunned. She also discovered that she had high blood pressure, which she now manages with medication. Her heart attack was a major learning experience.
“It made me more aware of my body,” Colon, a 54-year-old Douglas Homes resident, said. And she continued to educate herself on the topic of heart health on National Wear Red Day, where the Health and Social Services Department and Director of Mission, Frances Teabout, teamed up to raise heart disease awareness and promote heart health across the NCC network.
A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart is blocked and oxygen-rich blood cannot reach the heart. If the blocked artery is not quickly reopened, the part of the heart normally fed by that artery begins to die, according to the American Heart Association.
National Wear Red Day began in 2003 as an annual awareness event organized by Go Red For Women, a campaign launched by the American Heart Association. Women in workplaces across the country—as well as their male colleagues who show support—don red to symbolize the importance of heart health, as heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death among women, claiming one in three lives each year, AHA says.
For Health and Social Services Director Sharon Pleasant-Jones, the topic hits close to home for two reasons.
In 1998, Pleasant-Jones made an appointment for a cardiac workup but ended up admitted overnight at the hospital. Despite her workup results coming back clean, the cardiac catheterization had dislodged something in her arteries and Pleasant-Jones said the procedure itself caused her to have a heart attack. When she told the doctor she felt unwell, he said she probably just felt anxious. It wasn’t until several hours later that the night nurse identified her condition as a heart attack.
“She saved my life,” said Pleasant-Jones, who became a member of the American Heart Association after that incident. While men who suffer heart attacks experience well-known symptoms such as a crushing sensation to the chest and pain radiating down the arm, women may display different signs including jaw pain, nausea, indigestion and vomiting.
So in 2005 when her mother, Gail Matthews, experienced such symptoms, Pleasant-Jones knew what was happening and immediately sought help.
“I was able to save my mother’s life,” she said.
New Community celebrated National Wear Red Day at NCC Commons Senior, 140 South Orange Ave. in Newark, with a line-up of educational speakers, free blood pressure screenings and activities like Zumba.
Jacelyn Matthews, a mental health therapist, discussed how managing stress can play an important factor in one’s wellness.
“We’re used to putting that superwoman cape on,” Matthews said. “It can take a toll on you physically.”
On a similar note, Teabout reminded attendees that in addition to your heart being a vital organ in your body, it’s central to the wellness of your mind and spirit.
“We have to learn to forgive. If we live long enough, somebody is going to hurt you,” Teabout said.
The event was topped off by a complimentary heart-healthy lunch of sub sandwiches, salad, chicken kabobs, popcorn and non-alcoholic sangria, provided through the generosity of Guardy’s Pharmacy in Newark.