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Make health a priority. Advocate for appropriate care when you realize you don't feel right.
Those were some of the messages shared by Ellen and Jim Tressel during the annual "Go Red for Women" Heal Your Heart luncheon Friday at Summa Western Reserve Hospital in Cuyahoga Falls.
The former Ohio State University football coach and his wife were the guests of honor at the annual Valentine's Day program.
Ellen Tressel discussed her experience with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a genetic heart condition, and urged women to scrutinize their symptoms to determine if they are having heart problems and then seek appropriate treatment.
Jim Tressel discussed his role supporting his wife, and encouraged people to help their loved ones recognize symptoms of heart disease and make healthy living a high priority.
The program included a short video where the Tressels spoke about Ellen's journey of learning she had a genetic mutation for the condition, experiencing symptoms associated with the disease (shortness of breath and fatigue) and then having surgery in May 2010 to correct the problem. The Tressels then engaged in a question-and-answer session with Dr. Michael Bage, chief of staff/medical staff president at Akron City and St. Thomas hospitals.
Ellen Tressel told the audience of about 100 to, "be your own best advocate. You know your body. You know what's right, what's wrong. You would know when you don't feel well and you have to address it. A lot of times those things don't go away on their own. Don't take it for granted."
Ellen Tressel added her mother delayed seeking help for an arrhythmia and has developed complications as a result.
She said she visits with her cardiologist each year to ensure everything is functioning properly.
"It's important for me to have that peace of mind, to know that I'm OK and I'm still functioning like I want to function," said Ellen Tressel. "Every year I go to my cardiologist and get an Electrocardiogram (EKG), a stress test if needed, and talk to my doctor about any kinds of signs and symptoms, or whatever I'm experiencing, so we can address them at that time."
Ellen Tressel, who learned several years ago that she carries the mutated gene associated with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, said her sister and other family members also carry the gene.
Genetic testing helps these relatives, Ellen Tressel said, because "they really can become proactive and take the prevention side of this disease to its next level."
"Today is an awareness day," said Jim Tressel, who is Executive Vice President for Student Success at the University of Akron. " The only way that we can raise the level of awareness is keep talking about it and keep studying it and keep going forward. It's amazing what these folks in the medical profession can do. Just watching that whole process over those few years [addressing Ellen's condition] was really inspiring and that's why Ellen and I like to get out and make sure people are aware. Keep an eye on those signs [of heart problems], keep an eye on all those things and don't be afraid to ask questions."
Jim Tressel encouraged men "to become better listeners" in helping their wives who are coping with a heart condition.
"We have no idea what they're going through, but we have to be very cognizant of being there and whatever they need, we have to be there for them," said Jim Tressel.
The former Ohio State football coach encouraged audience members to make eating well, exercising regularly and visiting the doctor habitually a top priority.
"Health and good habits have to be a priority," said Jim Tressel. "If they're not a priority, all of a sudden, they can snowball."
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