Friday, February 24, 2012

Heart Disease- It's Not Your Grandmother's Illness

By Lisa Brown-Hall 


Raijean Stroud, Founder Bleeding Heart Project

During my recent trip to NY Fashion Week, I had the distinct pleasure of networking with several of my favorite fashion and beauty bloggers from across the country. One blogger in particular, Raijean Stroud of Swa-Rai Blog made such an indelible impression on me as she shared her testimony not only about her experience with heart disease but her transparency about her life in general. She lights up a room and clearly draws people in with her warm, fun-loving personality. Because we had become familiar via social media, I was somewhat aware of her battle with heart disease-however, she is a classic example of  “not looking like what she’s been through”.  She is a survivor and thrives in spite of her battle with heart disease.   I was so struck by her that I thought it would be a great opportunity for Her Style TV readers to see that heart disease is not just your “grandmothers disease”.


The entire month of February is dedicated to heart health, education and awareness about heart disease.  Many churches and non-profit organizations pay homage to this silent but deadly killer in the form of setting aside one Sunday of the month to wear red dresses as an acknowledgment of just how prevalent this disease is among women.   However, besides donning our favorite red dress there is very little education about the effects of the disease, symptoms to be aware of and most importantly- prevention.   Raijean suffers from both Congestive Heart Failure as well as Cardio Myopathy and she is fiercely passionate about educating others about the disease. 

Here’s my interview with Raijean:

Her Style TV: Tell me about your diagnosis:
Raijean: I was diagnosed with cardio myopathy back in January of 2009 and then 6 months later my disease progressed to congestive heart failure (CHF). Essentially my heart function was at 28% (50% is optimal) I was graduating with my master’s degree and I had to be rushed to the hospital with CHF.  I felt light headed and tired and just out of breath on the day of my gradation.

Her Style TV: Tell me about your initial symptoms
Raijean: I started feeling sick with just a dry cough that went away after a day or two. A week later, I was carrying my son (then only 2 months old) to visit my grandmother and I could not lift my son to carry him up the steps.  I could not breathe doing regular things so I decided to go to the doctor. I had already diagnosed myself with pneumonia so I went to the doctor telling them what was wrong with me and asking for meds so I could get out of there.  I had already previously been diagnosed with high blood pressure and I was working a very stressful job.

Her Style TV: Tell me about The Bleeding Heart Project
Raijean:  6 months after being diagnosed with congestive heart failure, my doctor told me that I might need a defibrillator. I kept thinking I was going to get better  ( and did not want to have the surgery) but I finally gave in and decided to go through with the surgery.  After getting the initial defibrillator it broke and I had to get a new one.  I asked God why is this happening to me and that’s when I realized that other people (dealing with heart disease) needed support so I created the Bleeding Health Project which basically acts as a support system for other people with heart disease.  We also focus on education and awareness.

Her Style TV: What key messages would you like our readers to come away with as it relates to heart disease?

Raijean: 
1. Listen to your body I was one of the lucky ones
2. Take care of your body
2. Find someone to talk to (for support)
3.Take your medicine- that was one of the big mistakes I made early on because I was young and did not want to admit I was sick.
4.Heart disease can be genetic but it doesn’t have a certain “look” it is not your grandmothers disease.



For more information on heart health please visit http://bleedingheartproject.org/
Follow Raijean on twitter @swaraiblog or @BHeartProj