West Michigan woman becomes face of heart health movement

Kristin Coppens

| 3 min read

As February is all about red and love, it’s only fitting that this month is also American Heart Month. Whether you participate in one of the many statewide Go Red For Women events, educate those around you, or create new ways to support, the American Heart Association provides a number of different resources to aid in your advocacy journey.
A true example of heart disease awareness and heart health advocacy is Rachel Bishop, a research and instruction librarian at Hope College in Holland. Bishop is a great example of living for heart health as she is an avid runner, 25-year vegetarian, and a health nut.
Bishop stumbled upon her congenital heart condition after 45 years without a diagnosis or idea that her defect even existed!
“I was born with a bicuspid aortic valve that was undiagnosed for 45 years. I was lucky to have caught it because I had also developed a 5.2-centimeter aortic aneurysm, which does not give off symptoms. The only reason why I’m still alive today is because I blacked out while driving my car three years ago and decided to go to the doctor,” explains Bishop.
Awareness of these conditions is essential in furthering research and lowering the statistics behind a deadly disease. Having an American Heart Month is a great start as Bishop says: “I feel strongly about (having a Heart Month) because not a lot of people are awareness of the statistics behind heart disease. It would be my dream to wipe these conditions off the earth!”
Bishop participates in a number of awareness events that not only keep her healthy, but also provide advocacy for the greater cause. With a passion for health in general, the Go Red For Women movement has asked Bishop to speak at various events in West Michigan, though she supports the American Heart Association all year long.
“I run in the Heart Mini in Cincinnati, Heart Walks in Chicago and Detroit, and I help plan American Heart Association-sponsored Heart Chase events in my hometown of Holland,” says Bishop.
Fortunately, she did not need to make a great deal of lifestyle changes as she was already living a healthy lifestyle; she just had the misfortune of having bad genes. Nevertheless, for heart health it’s important to stay active and eat a healthy diet full of heart healthy foods. Receiving regular check-ups and knowing your health status can also help in disease prevention.
“Heart disease and heart conditions do not discriminate and physical appearance is a poor indicator of heart health. Know the signs and symptoms of heart disease and heart conditions, know your family history, your numbers, live a healthy lifestyle, and, overall, see your doctor for a check-up,” stresses Bishop.
The American Heart Association of West Michigan is putting on a luncheon on February 27th for women in the area to come together and learn more about the movement while enjoying lunch, a purse auction, and heart health tip breakout sessions. Register to Go Red For Women here.
How have you made changes in your lifestyle to better your heart health?
Photo credit: Rachel Bishop

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