DALLAS, February 1, 2021 —To kick off American Heart Month and raise awareness that cardiovascular disease is the leading killer of women, the American Heart Association, the leading global volunteer organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke, today announced 22 heart disease and stroke survivors who are boldly sharing their stories as part of the Association’s Go Red for Women® movement. The time to act is now because losing even one more women to heart disease or stroke simply isn’t an option.
Go Red for Women, nationally sponsored by CVS Health, is the American Heart Association’s signature women’s initiative to end heart disease and stroke in women. Go Red for Women is working in communities around the world to help women understand that cardiovascular disease is their greatest health threat and that they should take action to lower their risk.
The Real Women will serve as year-long national volunteers for the Association. Each of the Real Women selected for this year’s class has a unique heart or brain health journey and, for the first time, the 2021 class includes two smaller groups of survivors focused on maternal health and congenital heart disease.
Heart disease remains the leading killer of women in the U.S., according to the American Heart Association’s newly released 2021 Heart Disease & Stroke Statistics, killing one in three women every year. Research shows heart attacks are on the rise in younger women and new data from a recent study published in Circulation suggests younger generations of women, Gen Z and Millennials, along with Black and Hispanic women, are less likely to be aware of their greatest health threat, including knowing the warning signs of heart attacks and strokes. This year’s class of women are the youngest class of women to date.
Following the birth of her daughter, 2021 Real Women Class Lead, 35-year-old Jaime Zeluck Hindlin of Los Angeles, was diagnosed with peripartum cariomyopathy, a form of heart failure. Today, Jaime is passionate about raising awareness and being a champion for women to advocate for their health.
"My shortness of breath and swollen feet were dismissed as symptoms of a normal pregnancy, but I had actually developed a rare form of heart failure that nearly killed me,” said Hindlin, whose diagnosis was made four years ago on February 1. “As the 2021 class lead for the Go Red for Women Real Women, my message is this: If you have a feeling that something isn’t right, get a second opinion. Don't wait. Listen to and trust your body."
The following women join Hindlin in the 2021 Real Women class:
- Brittany Scheier, 29, of Houston, Texas, was in her last semester of law school when she suffered a hemorrhagic stroke.
- An Army combat veteran, Dani Aylsworth’s, 33, of Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, battled PTSD, addiction and heart failure.
- Jessica Diede, 30, of Phoenix, Arizona, was 20 weeks pregnant with her second child when she was diagnosed with peripartum cardiomyopathy.
- Juliet Abdel, 31, of Westminster, Colorado, was diagnosed with spontaneous vertebral artery dissection (SVAD), a tear or disruption in the wall of the vertebral artery that’s a rare cause of stroke.
- Keturah White, 34, of Bentonville, Arkansas, has had multiple strokes after being born with a heart defect. She’s now an active advocate for people of color dealing with health issues.
- Professional actor Kimby Jagnandan, 45, of Davenport, Florida, had a heart attack after gallbladder surgery and now blogs about her experiences with heart disease.
- Lindsey Huie, 38, of Yorba Linda, California, is a busy mom and former competitive soccer player, so a rare condition called spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD) took her by surprise.
- As the first mother and daughter Real Women, Lucy Emonina, 67, of Calera, Alabama, and Ovuke’ Emonina McCoy, 46, of Bessemer, Alabama, were both born with an inherited condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), which causes a thickening of the walls of the heart chamber. Both women are thriving after having heart transplants.
- Despite being a professional dancer in peak physical shape, Megan Corbin, 30, of Crescent City, California, had a heart attack. Her message: heart attacks can happen at any age.
- Under constant stress as a registered medical assistant, Melissa Sloan-Williams, 39, of Fenton, Missouri, developed Type 2 diabetes and had a heart attack in her early 30s.
- After her stroke last year, Steffany Quintana, 26, of Houston, Texas, lost the ability to talk, swallow food and walk unassisted. She hopes her story will raise awareness about the impact of stroke.
- Yesenia Berbiar, 49, of Valencia, California, experienced symptoms of a stroke a month after having a hysterectomy. She discovered an undiagnosed heart condition she had since birth.
- Twenty-nine-year-old Devon Brzezynski of Fisherville, Virginia, says her congenital heart defect inspires her to spread awareness about heart disease risks in women, especially those with no family history of it.
- Jane Lee, 33, of Seattle, Washington, didn’t worry about her congenital heart defect — until she was told she needed open-heart surgery in her 20s while training for a marathon.
- Louisiana native Rachel Owens, 33, has had two open-heart surgeries and multiple procedures through the years of dealing with her congenital heart defect.
- Jessica Cowin, 37, of Chicago, Illinois, was two days old when she was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome.
- Jen Rohe, 33, of Lacey, Washington, thought she was experiencing typical post-partum symptoms. But her shortness of breath and elevated heart rate were signs she was experiencing heart failure and needed a transplant.
- Leah Riegert, 31, of Liberty Township, Ohio, was having an ideal first pregnancy. Then she had a stroke and peripartum cardiomyopathy, an uncommon form of heart failure.
- When she was 8 months pregnant, Meredith O’Neal, 35, of Plano, Texas, had an aortic dissection that threatened her life and the life of her baby.
Learn more about the 2021 Go Red for Women Real Women at goredforwomen.org.
- Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2021 Update: A Report From the American Heart Association
- To learn more about adverse pregnancy outcomes, visit https://www.heart.org/en/news/2021/01/27/statistics-report-puts-spotlight-on-pregnancy-and-heart-health
- To learn more about congenital heart defects, visit heart.org/CHD
- For support for parents of young children diagnosed with CHDs or adults living with the impact of a CHD, visit SupportNetwork.heart.org
About the American Heart Association
The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public’s health and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for nearly a century. Connect with us on heart.org, Facebook, Twitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.
About Go Red for Women
The American Heart Association’s signature initiative, Go Red for Women®, is a comprehensive platform designed to increase women’s heart health awareness and serve as a catalyst for change to improve the lives of women globally. While nearly 80 percent of cardiac events can be prevented, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in women, claiming the lives of 1 in 3 women. For 16 years, Go Red for Women has encouraged awareness. The movement harnesses the energy, passion and power of women to band together and collectively wipe out heart disease. It challenges them to know their risk for heart disease and take action to reduce their personal risk. It also gives them tools they need to lead a heart healthy life. The Go Red for Women movement is nationally sponsored by CVS Health, with additional support from national cause supporters. For more information, please visit GoRedforWomen.org or call 1-888-MY-HEART (1-888-694-3278).
For Media Inquiries:
Monica Sales: (214) 706-1527; firstname.lastname@example.org
For Public Inquiries: 1-800-AHA-USA1 (242-8721)
 Virani SS, Alonso A, Aparicio HJ, Benjamin EJ, Bittencourt MS, Callaway CW, Carson AP, Chamberlain AM, Cheng S, Delling FN, Elkind MSV, Evenson KR, Ferguson JF, Gupta DK, Khan SS, Kissela BM, Knutson KL, Lee CD, Lewis TT, Liu J, Loop MS, Lutsey PL, Ma J, Mackey J, Martin SS, Matchar DB, Mussolino ME, Navaneethan SD, Perak AM, Roth GA, Samad Z, Satou GM, Schroeder EB, Shah SH, Shay CM, Stokes A, VanWagner LB, Wang N-Y, Tsao CW; on behalf of the American Heart Association Council on Epidemiology and Prevention Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2021 update: a report from the American Heart Association [published online ahead of print January 27, 2021]. Circulation. doi: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000950
 1Arora S, Stouffer GA, Kucharska-Newton AM, et al.Circulation. 2019;139:1047–1056. Twenty Year Trends and Sex Differences in Young Adults Hospitalized with Acute Myocardial Infarction: The ARIC Community Surveillance Study. https://doi.org/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.118.037137Circulation Published Feb. 19, 2019
 Cushman, Shay, Howard et al, Circulation. 2020. Ten Year Difference in Women’s Awareness related to Coronary Heart Disease: Results of the 2019 American Heart Association National Survey. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIR.0000000000000907