GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. -- February is American Heart Month and the American Heart Association is reminding people to “Go Red For Women.”
The Go Red For Women campaign spreads awareness about heart disease, heart attack, and stroke in women.
Donna Gardner, 51, is used to the thrill and adventure of being a motorcycle rider.
As the director of accounting and financial reporting at Crumley Roberts by day -- Gardner wears her racing helmet in her off time, but she’s also wearing a new hat.
She has been named a 2016 Go Red ambassador for Guilford County -- sharing her own journey to heart health.
"I was excited to turn 50 and not feel bad,” she said.
“I was pretty much your average mom, average working person who didn't really pay attention to that too much,” she added.
Not paying attention led to being overweight and putting her health at risk.
Gardner says at one time she was about 30 to 40 pounds overweight, which affected her cholesterol and blood pressure.
It was around her 50th birthday when she felt a greater urge to make a change.
With the help of a “Couch to 5K” program, Gardner would go on to run her first marathon. Today, she has lost 40 pounds and is committed to her lifestyle change.
The American Heart Association hopes her story will motivate others in a high-risk area like the Piedmont.
“Sadly, Guilford County is part of what's known as the stroke belt and stroke is still the number three killer of our residents,” Cory Phillips, director of development at the American Heart Association Greensboro/Winston-Salem, said.
Gardner says she was never trying to pursue perfection and encourages women to embrace gradual changes toward reaching their goal.
“Not everyone can run a marathon, but you can know yourself well enough to know how you get there,” she said.
National Wear Red Day is Friday, Feb. 5. The American Heart Association Guilford Heart Ball is Feb. 12 at the Elm Street Center in Greensboro.