Did you know that heart disease and stroke are the number one killers of women? Measha Brueggergosman, Canadian soprano and spokesperson for The Heart and Stroke Foundation’s The Heart Truth campaign, explains her own health-related struggles, Becel’s February heart-healthy initiative, and why all Canadian women need to starting listening to their hearts.
Q: Why do Canadian women need a wake-up call about their heart health?
A: Women generally look to take care of others before they take care of themselves. We’re natural nurturers. But if you don’t take care of yourself, you’re not going to be around to take care of loved ones. What we’re trying to get across is the necessity of looking at your own health. If you can keep your heart nice and healthy, and sustain that major priority, it goes a long way. And the first steps are knowing your blood pressure and cholesterol numbers. Those things are very easy to monitor, but they’re massive risk indicators for health.
Q: Can you tell me a little about your personal connection to heart disease?
A: I’m a perfect example of what can happen if you don’t pay attention to your heart health. I had lost 150 pounds, but hadn’t focused in on my heart and had no idea what my numbers were. [At 31], my aorta exploded and I had to have emergency open heart surgery to repair it. But I don’t think it’s necessary for all Canadian women to go through that first.
Q: What did that experience teach you?
A: It taught me the necessity of preventative health maintenance. Heart disease doesn’t just happen; it’s years in the making and cumulative neglect. What Becel is doing by offering free testing sites for cholesterol, is giving people the chance to be actively involved in their own preventative maintenance.
Q: Has your daily routine changed?
A: As much as my inattention to my cholesterol and high blood pressure almost killed me, I also know that practicing Bikram yoga saved me. You don’t have to become a yogi to preserve your heart health, but you do need to get active and do the little things – even if it’s just a 20-minute walk and reducing your salt intake every day. We expend a lot of energy on worrying about our health, but you have to be empowered to actually take care of yourself.
Q: If you could send one message to Canadian women about their health, what would it be?
A: It’s in your hands.