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Novant Health launches online initiative to spread awareness on cardiac risk factors

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Penny Bowman was dealing with a lot of stress at home, but like many people, she kept it to herself.

Eventually, the emotional trauma she was experiencing took a physical toll on her body this past January.

The hospice care nurse was working with a patient who was being evaluated at Northern Hospital when she experienced severe back pain.

“The third severe pain went across the top of my back and it radiated up the side of my neck. When that happened, I was sure I was having a heart attack,” she said.

It was a blessing Bowman was at the hospital that day because staff members promptly began the necessary protocol before she was airlifted to Forsyth Medical Center.

“Surprisingly, her heart [catheterization] didn’t show any obstructive heart disease,” said Dr. Nizar Noureddine, interventional cardiologist at Forsyth Medical Center.

Bowman experienced a stress-induced heart attack clinically referred to as Takotsubo cardiomyopathy.

Bowman knew the source of her stress.

“The stress was actually related to domestic violence,” she said.

Bowman says that the abuse was related opioid dependence.

“I did not share that with anyone for many years,” she said.

To spread awareness on cardiac risk factors, Novant Health has launched an online initiative – the 10,000 Healthy Hearts Challenge.

“What we’re trying to do is increase the awareness of heart disease amongst 10,000 members in our community,” said Dr. Samuel Turner, interventional cardiologist and medical director of the cath lab at Forsyth Medical Center.

People are asked to fill out a heart disease risk assessment as a way to gauge common risk factors including blood pressure, BMI, blood sugar and cholesterol numbers.

Dr. Turner and Dr. Noureddine both expressed that stress is also a risk factor that should be monitored.

After having a heart attack at just 45 years old, Bowman urges people to be mindful of stress, especially women in abusive situations.

“Because if the physical violence does not kill you, the emotional stress will,” she said.

The online assessment will be available through the end of the year.

The challenge also asks that participants tag five friends on social media using #NHHealthyHearts.