Alicia Roberts may have had to tackle cardiac rehab three separate times in recent years, but that hasn’t stopped her from doing whatever it takes to raise awareness about heart disease with WomenHeart Hinesville.
Locally, Roberts is an advocate for cardiac health and a volunteer at Liberty Regional Medical Center’s cardiac rehabilitation center. She uses each day to raise awareness and emphasize the importance of keeping hearts healthy.
“I started WomenHeart Hinesville because I’m a heart disease survivor,” Roberts said. “I’ve done cardiac rehab three different times at LRMC.”
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 630,000 Americans die from heart disease — statistically equal to one in four deaths. This makes the disease the leading cause of death among both men and women in the United States.
Roberts founded WomenHeart Hinesville in February to provide a support group for area women struggling with heart disease. When Roberts was suffering, there were no exclusive, women-only groups.
Every day, Roberts pushes women to take their heart health seriously. It’s an effort to prevent more cases from going unnoticed. As a volunteer at the rehab center, she encourages others facing the same problems.
“WomenHeart Hinesville is separate from LRMC, but I have it there sometimes because I’ve been there before,” Roberts said.
Roxanne Walker, a graduate of the six-week cardiac rehab program, thought she was healthy until her heart scared her.
“I had a heart attack away from home,” she said. “I put more emphasis on others before myself, because there was a lot of stress on my family at one time.”
Walker suffered a takotsubo cardiomyopathy — more commonly known as an acute, stress induced heart attack. Afterwards, she found herself in LRMC’s program, where she met Roberts and Sandy Wells, a cardiac rehab nurse.
“I took so much value in cardiac rehab,” Walker said. “Sandy was my saving grace. She is wonderful.”
Walker said that through cardiac rehab and WomenHeart, she’s on the path to recovery and full health again. Women need groups that support them, she added, prompting nods from others in the group.
As a nurse, Wells has been there through countless rehabs at patients’ sides.
“After a cardiac event, we look at the person as a whole,” she said. “We address the most pertinent part of each patient, whether that’s mental, physical or emotional.”
Wells stresses that the benefits of cardiac rehab are about teaching people how to learn the signs, lessen the symptoms and improve their overall health.
“80 percent of heart disease is preventable,” Wells said. “That means 20 percent is congenital or genetic, but 80 percent is our habits.”
As a participant in WomenHeart as well, Wells encourages patients who graduate from rehab — like Walker — to join the group.
“WomenHeart is a continuation and a way for those people to help themselves,” she said. “It’s supporting each other and their endeavors.”
WomenHeart Hinesville’s will compile a self-improvement vision board at a meeting Tuesday in LRMC’s classroom. They’re encouraging all who attend to bring clippings, pictures and other things that inspire them to put up on the board.
Please note that WomenHeart Hinesville is changing their walking times on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 12 p.m. to 8:30 a.m. starting July 30.