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Women go red

Shoppers at Fargo's West Acres mall saw red Friday as more than 20 area women documented their stories of heart health and heart scares. The local chapter of the American Heart Association hosted a casting call in honor of National Wear Red Day, ...

Lynn Remlo

Shoppers at Fargo's West Acres mall saw red Friday as more than 20 area women documented their stories of heart health and heart scares.

The local chapter of the American Heart Association hosted a casting call in honor of National Wear Red Day, which raises awareness of heart disease and strokes in women.

As part of the event, women like Rita Lattimore videotaped their stories of survival and heart-healthy lifestyle changes.

"In reality, I shouldn't even be here," said Lattimore, a heart attack survivor. "If my story can help other women, it's worth it."

A month after she celebrated her 50th birthday, pain shot across her cheek and down into her jaw. She thought she had a sinus infection.

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"I ignored it and rode my bike to work," the Moorhead woman said.

Throughout the day Lattimore easily ran out of breath and experienced some chest pain. She didn't take it seriously until 3 in the morning when she woke up sweating with an odd throbbing feeling in her chest.

She asked her husband to drive her to the emergency room, where tests showed she was having a heart attack.

Later she learned that her type of blockage is often nicknamed "widow maker" because it usually causes a massive heart attack that leads to death.

"I'm lucky," said Lattimore, now 52. Two stents opened her artery. "I've been doing awesome ever since."

A panel will choose a handful of local stories to forward to the national office, said local American Heart Association spokeswoman Jodi Baumgartner. Those stories may be used in national campaigns or as part of a future television special on NBC.

More women die of heart disease than any other illness and yet many consider it a "man's disease," according to the Go Red for Women campaign.

Cindy Arnhold, 52, of Dent, Minn., had one heart valve replaced and another repaired in mid-December. She attended Friday's casting call to encourage others with heart conditions to live life fully.

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"Don't let something like this stop you," she said. "Move on, exercise and eat right."

Arnhold had her first valve replaced when she was 19, but it started wearing out, she said. Last summer she parked as close to stores as she could because she experienced shortness of breath.

Now a walk across the parking lot excites her.

"It is a joy," she said. "It feels good to walk and not get out of breath."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erin Hemme Froslie at (701) 241-5534

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