Stroke survivor helps raise awareness about women’s heart health

WATCH: Stroke survivor helps raise awareness about women’s heart health

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Friday is National Go Red Day. Heart disease is the number one killer of women.

The American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women Campaign focuses on increasing awareness about women’s heart health.

Vicki Sledge’s battle with heart disease began in 2012 when her husband became extremely ill.

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“So, we were cursed with he could not work, and he was in all the time,” Sledge said.

“So, I became the bread winner, I was wife, I was mother, I was housekeeper, financial person. You name it. Everything fell onto me.”

The stress took a toll on her body.

One night in 2014 something unusual happened.

“One night we were at home and he asked me a question when we were going to bed and what came out of my mouth was baby talk,” Sledge said.

“The words in my head did not exit my mouth.”

Sledge was having a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA).

TIA is often called a mini-stroke.

She’s had hundreds over the years, and after the death of her husband, the strokes continue to this day.

“So, it’s a real-life experience that’s very scary that you’re dealing with and knowing that it can happen at any time,” Sledge said. “So, to me, what’s most important is making sure I take care of myself.”

Sledge is just one of approximately 44 million women who suffer from a form of cardiovascular disease.

The American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women Campaign was created to help raise awareness about women’s heart health.

Dr. Cassandra Howard, Chief Medical Officer for Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown Hospital, said this year’s campaign is focused on total health and wellness of women.

“Up to 30 percent of those patients. Women can suffer from mental illness such as clinical depression, so it’s really important not to only focus on cardiovascular health, but to look at health as a total body or wholeness concept and not ignore the signs and symptoms of mental health that may be present,” Howard said.

Sledge wears red and hopes her story will inspire women to stay on top of their health.

“I want them to know, pay attention, take care of themselves,” Sledge said.

“Do what the doctors tell you and don’t wait. Especially if you are a woman. What you think is the flu could be something more.”

Dr. Howard said the signs and symptoms of a heart attack or a stroke are similar to flu like symptoms but should not be mistaken for the flu.