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HUNTINGTON — Angel Schneider believed she was near the healthiest she’d ever been when she fell victim to a heart attack at age 43.

“It was just like any normal Tuesday,” she said. “I got up, got my kids up, drove them to school, dropped them off, went on to work, got off work and headed home for the evening routine of homework and dinner and bath and bed, or so I thought.”

That night, Sept. 11, 2018, Schneider’s nighttime ritual was interrupted by the No. 1 killer of women — heart disease.

On Friday, more than 300 community members came together at the St. Mary’s Conference Center in Huntington to hear Schneider’s survival story and help raise heart health awareness at the annual Tri-State Go Red for Women Celebration and Luncheon, sponsored by St. Mary’s Regional Heart Institute and the American Heart Association.

“Awareness is so important; we all do what we want to do when we’re younger, and it does eventually affect our bodies,” Melanie Kerstetter, with the St. Mary’s Foundation, said. “It’s good for us to take the time to think about what we’re eating, what we’re doing, how we’re exercising, everything in our lives, because it truly does make a difference.”

Attendees shopped local vendors before the luncheon began at noon, and also had access to free health screenings.

“We have glucose, blood pressure (screenings), and people can get the results before they leave today,” Kerstetter said.

Dr. Mark Studeny, cardiologist at St. Mary’s Regional Heart Institute, shared with the audience risk factors that can influence heart disease, including family history, diabetes, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, obesity and hypertension, among others.

Although some of these factors are not modifiable, he said, paying attention to changes in the body and seeking treatment at the onset of symptoms can help reduce risks.

“The earlier you get to the hospital with a heart attack, there is a more likely chance that we can stop the heart attack,” Studeny said. “You have a much higher likelihood of survival.”

For Schneider, whose heart disease was hereditary, those words ring true on a personal level.

After experiencing a warm sensation come over her, a pain in her arm, shortness of breath and nausea, she still wasn’t convinced she was having a heart attack. Upon her arrival at St. Mary’s, tests revealed that, sure enough, Schneider had suffered one.

“I was making time for myself. I was going to the gym. I was working out, watching what I ate,” she said. “I was thinking, ‘How can this happen to me?’”

Schneider said she hopes people take away from her story how critical and lifesaving self-awareness is.

“As women, we are busy, and we all have a different busy, but you need to listen to your body and put yourself first, and we don’t always do that as women,” she said.

A Go Red Fashion Show featuring styles from local retailers also took place at the luncheon, with models who had a personal connection to heart disease. Proceeds from the event went to the American Heart Association.

Follow reporter Hanna Pennington via Twitter @hpennHD.

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