Tinker employee encourages others to 'Go Red for Women'

  • Published
  • By Kimberly Woodruff
  • Tinker Public Affairs
Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States. In fact, cardiovascular disease kills more women than all forms of cancer combined.
For the past 10 years, The American Heart Association has sponsored the National Wear Red Day to raise awareness of the disease. This year's "Go Red Day" is Feb. 7 and at least one Tinker woman will be participating.

Because of a family history of heart problems, Sherri Sutterfield, Air Force Sustainment Center Contracting Directorate, knew she could have the same genetic issue. Her father, Joe Wittmann, had his first heart attack at the age of 43 and had triple bypass heart surgery. He died of a heart attack when he was just 57-years-old; one month before he was to retire.

Ms. Sutterfield scheduled a heart scan at a local hospital "It is so easy," she said. "You lie down, fully clothed, and there are no needles or anything. It's totally painless. All you have to do is hold your breath a few times when they tell you. It takes about 10 minutes. Then the nurse reviews your results with you and provides you a printout of your results."

The scan revealed a lot of calcium plaque buildup and that she has coronary artery disease like her father. Ms. Sutterfield's nurse was surprised by the results and gave her the name of a cardiologist. As a 43-year-old woman, her scan looked like that of a woman in her 80s.

"Everyone who has a family history of heart disease or is having any symptoms needs to get a scan," she said. "If your insurance doesn't cover it, the price is still very reasonable and worth it. Advertised heart scans range from $17 to $50."

Ms. Sutterfield said heart attack symptoms are not the same for everyone. "Many people dismiss chest pain or pressure, shortness of breath, nausea, etc., as indigestion, stress or a cold, when they are indeed experiencing heart attack symptoms," she said. "While they defer a trip to the emergency room, many end up there after finally experiencing cardiac arrest causing irreversible heart damage."

In 2011, Ms. Sutterfield was experiencing extremely fatigue, chest pressure, and chest pain. Her cardiologist performed an arteriogram and found that she had an artery that was 95 percent blocked. A medicated stent was inserted into the artery. In December 2011, she had another stent inserted to open up another blocked artery. The scan and preventive surgical measures saved her heart from permanent damage due to heart attack. At her urging, her younger brother, Tony, had a heart scan and came out with a clean bill of health.

"If only this technology would have been around for my father, he might have made it," she said. "There is no reason to lose loved ones when early detection is inexpensive, available and can save your life as it has mine."

According to the American Heart Association, as a result of the Go Red for Women campaign, 21 percent fewer women are dying from heart disease and 23 percent more women are aware heart disease is their No. 1 health threat. There have also been more published gender-specific results, establishing differences in symptoms, specific guidelines for prevention and treatment and legislation to help with gender disparities.

Ms. Sutterfield said she is thankful for the Wingmen in her unit. "It is so special that my co-workers have been so supportive through this whole ordeal," she said. "I urge everyone to go get a heart scan and support Go Red for Women and wear red on Friday, Feb. 7."

Things to consider for heart health:
* get 30 to 40 minutes of physical activity daily
* choose foods wisely
* get enough sleep
* manage stress
* get regular checkups with a doctor

Healthy Heart Class
The Health and Wellness Center holds a Healthy Heart Class the fourth Thursday of every month that is open to anyone with access to Tinker AFB. Call 734-5660 to register for this free class. The class is two hours and covers overall heart health, heart disease, lifestyle changes, blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides (how they work, side effects, what meds to take caution with, things to avoid and drug interactions). The HAWC encourages everyone to know their numbers. This class is very educational and on a level everyone can understand, though unfortunately, not always well attended, so there is plenty of room. Sign up today and get on track to get heart healthy.

Civilian Health Promotion Services offers free cholesterol and glucose screenings, blood pressure checks, weigh-ins, and health consultations every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. CHPS is located in Bldg. 3001, Post 0-73. Cholesterol and glucose screenings are only for Department of Defense civilians once per fiscal year. Complete the annual HRA at www.afmcwellness.com and bring the certificate to be eligible for free screening and incentive prize. For more information, call 582-6817 or email CHPStinker@psc.gov.

(Note: a previous version of this article incorrectly stated that "Go Red for Women" was sponsored by the American Red Cross. It is sponsored by the American Heart Association.)