Ask most women what their greatest health fear is and more than likely the response will be cancer, maybe even specifically – breast cancer. Cancer is a health concern but, it is heart disease that claims more women each year than all other cancers combined. Unfortunately, because of a lack of awareness of women’s heart health risks many of us ignore the warning signs of a heart problem.
Julie Ward, our Chest Pain Coordinator at TMC, meets many women who find out just how real the risk is for women. Julie follows our STEMI (patients actively having a heart attack) times and ensure we have processes in place to attain the goal of less than 90 minutes (TMC is currently at 65 minutes). She tracks patients who have had heart attacks and is actively raising awareness of ways to prevent heart disease via heart disease prevention lectures within our community.
Julie, are you from Tucson or did you move here from elsewhere?
I am from Wisconsin and have been in Tucson for 10 years and prior to that I lived in Scottsdale for 5 years.
What do you do for fun?
I have a 10 year old daughter and we fill our weekends with activities from mountain biking to shopping to playing Dance Party on the Wii.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I have worked as an RN for 19 years and have worked in many roles which have included working in the ER and trauma. I like having the opportunity to meet with patients and their families and discussing what they can do to have improved heart heath. I love giving heart disease prevention lectures to the public. I am surprised by the lack of knowledge that the public has, especially women.
What do you love about Tucson?
Tucson has so many outdoor activity possibilities. I have discovered hiking, trail running, and mountain biking. There is something to do everyday. Weather is usually not a barrier.
What do you want all women to know about heart health?
As a working mom, I have a hard time giving myself permission to take 30 minutes every day to dedicate to myself to exercise. Somehow I feel guilty about not being there for my family 100% after work. Heart disease is the #1 killer of women and if we do not allow ourselves the time to take care of our own heart health, we risk not being around for our children. We also owe it to our children to see that every step taken towards our health, leads to a better and healthier future.
On a personal note, around 5 years ago, my mom was at a dance in Green Valley and suffered Sudden Cardiac Death. Fortunately, there was an AED immediately available and she was able to be resuscitated after multiple rounds of defibrillation. Today, she is alive and has no residual effects of the code arrest. If not for the quick actions and the knowledge of the recreation center staff, my mom would not be here today. My daughter would have lost someone who is such an important part of her life.
What would you tell your 18 year old self, 25 year old self, 35 year old self?
At 18: I wish I would have known to have confidence. At 18 I didn’t really know anything about whom I was or who I could potentially be.
At 25: I wish I could tell my 25 year old self that I could push harder and become a doctor. I love being a nurse but have always wanted to go back to medical school. At 25 I felt I would be too old when I graduated—who knew! I would also tell my 25 year old self that being naturally thin would end and I needed to take exercise routines and eating healthy more seriously
At 35: My 35 year old self needed to know that, emotionally, the best is yet to come. As women, we just get better with age. It is truly amazing. My 35 year old self started putting on weight and it has fluctuated through the years. I wish I could go back and force myself to train for the marathon I thought about so often but never acted upon.
TMC has been selected among the nation’s 50 Top Cardiovascular Hospitals by Thomson Reuters for 2011 – the only hospital listed from Southern Arizona