They say people die of a broken heart. I must be walking dead then since it’s happened twice in the last three years. Seriously though, I was intrigued when the topic of the Women’s Business Council’s WomenBizPH Talks last month bannered “Boosting Women’s Health, Powering Women’s Hearts and Minds.”
Our first speaker was prominent cardiologist Dr. Maria Adelaida “Leni” Iboleon-Dy, chairman of the Philippine Heart Association Council on Women’s Cardiovascular Health. As her many accomplishments were mentioned, what struck me most was that here was a tall, gracious and beautiful woman who has made it to the top in a field dominated by men. What an outstanding testament to womanhood! And instead of just resting on her laurels, she has been campaigning for women’s health.
Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy. That’s what they call the broken-heart syndrome, Leni shared. Most often seen in post-menopausal women, Takotsubo is brought about by recent severe emotional or physical stress. Emotional stress can be triggered by the death of a loved one, relationship breakups, arguments with a spouse, or constant anxiety due to financial problems. Physical stress examples include acute asthma, surgery, chemotherapy and stroke. First studied in Japan, this stress-induced cardiomyopathy has symptoms similar to a heart attack. It can be lethal, but could clear up in four months if treated right.
Leni urged us to take care of our health, as heart disease is the No. 1 leading cause of death in women regardless of race or ethnicity. In fact, she said one in three women dies of heart disease, compared to one of 30 who dies of cancer.
Leni was on a passionate quest to wake up women to the reality that cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a major public health issue, and to make them lead healthy lifestyles as a preventive measure. Because women have a higher tolerance for pain (due to childbirth), women are more difficult to diagnose, and are more likely not to get appropriate treatment following a first heart attack. As Leni said, we tend to “tough it out” more than men. Women also have different symptoms from men, ranging from a “doomed” feeling, or being “suddenly very tired,” vomiting or having indigestion.
Leni categorized the risk factors for CVD into what can be changed and what cannot. The bad news is that we can’t do anything about heredity, about being women, or about getting older, especially when we hit menopause. The good news is we can adopt healthier lifestyles by quitting smoking (and staying away from secondhand smoke), eating healthier, exercising, controlling weight gain, and taking the necessary medication for conditions like high blood cholestrol, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Leni recommended vigorous activities like brisk walking, running or swimming, or even dancing for at least 30 minutes, six days a week to get the heart and lungs in top condition. As for nutrition, it was best to avoid cholesterol-rich food and fad diets that promise quick results, and instead opt for a healthy, balanced diet.
Another casualty of aging is our minds. “My yesterdays are disappearing, my tomorrows are uncertain, so what do I live for? I live for each day. I live in the moment.” Quoting neuroscientist and author of Still Alice, our second speaker Gina Lumauig, director of Communications of Neeuro Pte. Ltd., Singapore, highlighted the importance of early diagnosis and early intervention to close the treatment gap for dementia.
Dementia, a syndrome caused by different brain illnesses, affects memory, thinking, behavior and the ability to perform everyday functions. There are an estimated 44.4 million people worldwide suffering from dementia. Meanwhile, according to the Dementia Society of the Philippines, an estimated 200,000 Filipinos suffer from dementia, with many more having to live with the problems the illness brings, not just as patients but as caregivers.
There are things that we can do to keep our brains fit, such as being fit physically, getting enough sleep, eating healthy, laughing and volunteering. Writing by hand is one of the best ways to sharpen our mind.
We all had so much fun while learning how important it is to keep our bodies, hearts and minds healthy. But more than the fun and the learning, it was great bonding with other women at the Women’s Business Council (WBC).
WBC provides a platform for discussing women’s issues in business and finding solutions to challenges women face in the conduct of their business. WBC is working with the Department of Trade and Industry to organize the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Public-Private Dialogue on Women and the Economy in September 2015. And it looks like we’ll be very busy mounting this.
So, is it possible to die of a broken heart? According to Leni, yes. Can it be cured? Yes. Can we delay the onset of dementia? According to Gina, yes. So, ladies, let’s start
This article reflects the author’s opinion and is not the official stand of the BPW Makati. Women Stepping Up is a rotating column of members of BPW Makati and comes out twice a month. For more information on BPW Makati, visit www.womensteppingup.org.
About the Writer
Maria Montserrat Iturralde-Hamlin (Monette) is the founder and president of TeamAsia, an award-winning integrated marketing communication firm that takes brands to the next level experience of visibility through five core services: integrated marketing, experience, creative, content and digital.
Monette concurrently serves as chairman of the Philippine Association of Convention/Exhibition Organizers and Suppliers (PACEOS); chairman of Hopkins International Partners, Inc.; as trustee and board secretary of the League of Corporate Foundations (LCF); and was appointed to the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) representing the Meeting, Incentives Travel, Conventions, Exhibitions & Events Services & Facilities Sector for the third consecutive year.