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‘It changed how I view life’ | Two women share their life-changing heart health stories to bring awareness

Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States and 80% of heart disease is preventable, according to the nonprofit WomenHeart.

WASHINGTON — Cathy Backinger and Monique Acosta House know the importance of heart health first hand. Now, they are using their stories to share an important message.

“I think a lot of women don’t realize how pervasive and devastating heart disease is. When you think about one in four women who die in this country, it’s because of heart disease,” said Backinger.

“It changed me and it changed how I view life and how I advocate for myself and how I want to advocate for other women,” said House.

House’s heart journey started 20 years ago while she was a senior in college. 

“I had been feeling fatigued. I had left arm pain and I was just not feeling right,” said House.

She decided to go to the emergency room where doctors took a scan of her heart.

“It seemed to take a really long time then they brought in another person and they were talking in hushed tones to each other. I asked if I could go to work and they said I’m sorry we have to tell you something. You are very ill. You are in heart failure,” said House.

Fast forward to 2016 when Monique learned she would need a new heart. 

“That awesome heart had worked so hard but it could not sustain me and I ended up being put on the heart transplant list. I was on the list for five months, I was really sick. Fortunately, I was blessed to receive the gift of life. I have a new heart,” she said.

Credit: WUSA9

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Backinger said her heart story started a year and a half ago at 64 years old.

“I don’t smoke. I always see my doctor regularly for preventative screenings. I’ve always been healthy and conscious about my fitness and my health. I’ve always exercised, I do cardio, I do weights. I watch my diet but all of that was not enough to overcome my family history of heart disease,” said Backinger.

In September 2019, Backinger was biking with friends when she started to feel an unusual ache. 

“I started feeling what I would call an ache in my chest and getting some tingling in my arm,” said Cathy. “I ended up seeing a cardiologist. She did a number of tests on me and my LAD artery was 95% blocked. I was a heart attack waiting to happen."

Credit: WUSA9

According to the nonprofit Women Heart, heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States and 80% of the disease is preventable.

“I’m fine today, I recovered and I’m just so thankful that even though at first I didn’t think it was real, I did something about it. My message is that even if you are fit and healthy, if you feel like something is off, and if you’re having symptoms, take action,” said Cathy.

Credit: WUSA9

Backinger said it’s important to pay attention to your body and visit the doctor if something does not feel right.

“We need to take care of ourselves because we typically take care of others and we need to make sure we are advocating for ourselves because we are only going to be as good at taking care of others if we are taking care of ourselves,” said Backinger.

Now, they are using their stories to champion other women to get checked.

Credit: WUSA9

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