Heart health scare prompts opera star to educate other women
Constance Droganes, CTVNews.ca
Published Wednesday, January 18, 2012 11:02AM EST
To look at her today, no one would ever suspect that Canadian opera star Measha Brueggergosman was unhealthy.
The vibrant 34-year-old was the picture of good health on CTV's Canada AM on Wednesday as she chatted about the Becel Women's Heart Health campaign. Yet three years ago the acclaimed soprano from Fredericton, N.B. nearly saw her life and career cut short by heart disease.
In 2009, Brueggergosman needed emergency heart surgery that saved her life. Now she's using her story to help educate Canadians about the importance of heart health.
"I'm so good today," Brueggergosman told Canada AM.
"The reason that I'm good is that I started to take my heart health seriously," she said.
Brueggergosman's story is a sobering one.
The star woke up on a "basic, run of the mill day" as she described it.
Brueggergosman was in Toronto rehearsing for a performance with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Then out of the blue, Brueggergosman felt a slight tingling sensation in her fingers as she stood in line at a restaurant.
"My aorta at that moment was dissecting," said Brueggergosman.
The event, and the heath crisis that it triggered, took Brueggergosman by surprise.
"I had neglected my blood pressure. I didn't know anything about my cholesterol. I just kind of thought that at 31 it would take care of itself," said Brueggergosman.
"I'd lost a ton of weight. I thought I'd built up a little bit of good will," she said.
That belief, however, proved untrue.
Heart disease was not unknown to Brueggergosman's family. Both of her father's parents had died of the disease before the singer's dad was 14 years old. Brueggergosman's father has also had several heart attacks and quadruple bypass surgery.
Yet like so many people -- and women, in particular, Brueggergosman had no idea that she had the risk factors for heart disease.
"Women's heart health comes down to the whole philosophy of putting the oxygen mask on first. You have to help yourself first in order to enable yourself to help others," said Brueggergosman.
"This whole Becel Women's Heart Health campaign is about making sure that women take it upon themselves to do some very easy steps to monitor their cholesterol, which is one of the number one risk indicators for heart health," she said.
Heart disease is the number one killer of women in Canada.
To help combat this disease, the Becel Women's Heart Health campaign is setting up cholesterol check centres across the country.
"They're making it easy for women," said Brueggergosman.
"You can have your cholesterol easily tested and raise your own awareness about your heart health."