She went a whole day not knowing she was having a heart attack. And she's not alone.
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Cigna 2017

Beatriz Martinez was exercising at the gym one day when she suddenly felt unusually breathless and a little dizzy and got a pain in her stomach.

She stopped and took a minute to breathe, which made her feel a little better. But the pain was still there. Maybe she had pushed herself too hard and pulled a muscle?

"I thought it was the exercises, a muscle ache," says Beatriz. So, she decided to call it quits for the day and drove home.


Beatriz Martinez in her home in Miami. Image via Beatriz Martinez, used with permission.

She made lunch, washed her hair, and went about the whole day like everything was normal — even though the dull ache in her stomach never really went away. That evening, she and her husband even went to a party. But at that point, the pain had gotten worse, and by the time they went home, she was vomiting and the pain had spread to her chest.

They went straight to the emergency room.

At the hospital, they ran some tests — and Beatriz was told she was having a heart attack.

One of the most important arteries in her heart, the left anterior descending (LAD), was completely blocked. "That I'm alive, it's like a miracle," she says.

She had a stent put in and she was in recovery at the hospital for six days before she was able to go home again.

Beatriz's story is not uncommon.

Heart disease is actually one of the most common causes of death for women in the United States. But in some cases, it can be prevented — which is why preventive health care is so important.

Image via iStock.

"What creates problems for people are the things that they don't know and therefore can't change," says Dr. Nicholas Gettas, a family doctor who is now a medical officer at Cigna.

With health issues, such as heart disease, it is the cumulative effect over time of risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes, that can cause a problem — like a heart attack. That’s why it is important to be informed about your four health numbers: blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and body mass index (BMI).

Image via iStock.

Even if you eat well and exercise, it's still worth getting checked. "You might see a person who is thin, who exercises, whose diet appears to be great ... [but] there is some genetic issue that means that their cholesterol is still high," says Gettas. In fact, he adds, he had a patient with a similar experience.

"The earlier you identify, the earlier you can moderate and modify the issue and the more likely you are to get a better long-term result," he says.

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if everyone got their recommended preventive care, we could probably save 100,000 lives in America every year.

Beatriz's experience taught her a lot about the importance of keeping an eye on her health.

Even at the hospital, when everyone was rushing around to treat her, Beatriz says she couldn't help but think they were overreacting because she still didn't think it was that serious.

"I never thought that I had anything wrong with my heart," Beatriz says. She had always thought of herself as healthy: She was active, she exercised regularly, and she wasn't overweight.

Image via iStock.

She was also unaware of something very important: The symptoms of a heart attack are often very different for women than they are for men.

Most of the heart attack indicators we hear about are actually what happens when men have a heart attack — such as the left arm going numb or the obvious severe chest pain. In women, heart attack symptoms can be more subtle, as Beatriz experienced:

  • The pain isn't always in the chest. It can be in the neck, jaw, upper back, or stomach region.
  • Sometimes it just feels like a bad case of indigestion.
  • Other times it just causes shortness of breath — which is sometimes mistaken as a panic attack — or dizziness.
  • It can also cause nausea and vomiting.

This means women are more likely to ignore their pain or downplay the symptoms, causing a dangerous delay in treatment that can be deadly. In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic, women often show up in emergency rooms after heart damage has already occurred.

Image via iStock.

But there are some warning signs — Beatriz just didn’t know to look for them.

"Before I had the heart attack, I felt breathless a lot and had pain in my jaw, but I didn’t pay attention to that because I didn’t know that was symptoms of your heart," she says. There was also a history of heart disease in her family, she adds, "but I never thought I was going to have it in my life. I never thought it would happen to me."

Beatriz wants other women to know the risk factors for heart disease before a health incident makes them all too aware of it.

She has gotten involved with the National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease and has become a WomenHeart Champion. She wants to spread awareness about heart health and the symptoms of heart disease to women across the United States. And she wants to encourage them to take control of their health before they ever get sick.

Image via Beatriz Martinez, used with permission.

It has been almost five years since Beatriz had her heart attack, and she says she's come a long way in terms of taking control of her health.

She started on medication and a special diet immediately after the heart attack. And now, not only does she go to the gym, but she also does aerobics three times a week, and she works with a personal trainer three hours a week. With the help of her doctor, she also keeps close tabs on her four health numbers. And now that Martinez has taken control, her health has never been better.

"I went to my cardiologist [recently] and he said that now, my cholesterol numbers are excellent, my blood sugar is excellent — my numbers are excellent," she says.

Beatriz says that the one thing her heart attack taught her was that she can’t become complacent about her health. "You can die if you don't take care of yourself," she says.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Wil Wheaton speaking to an audience at 2019 Wondercon.

In an era of debates over cancel culture and increased accountability for people with horrendous views and behaviors, the question of art vs. artist is a tricky one. When you find out an actor whose work you enjoy is blatantly racist and anti-semitic in real life, does that realization ruin every movie they've been a part of? What about an author who has expressed harmful opinions about a marginalized group? What about a smart, witty comedian who turns out to be a serial sexual assaulter? Where do you draw the line between a creator and their creation?

As someone with his feet in both worlds, actor Wil Wheaton weighed in on that question and offered a refreshingly reasonable perspective.

A reader who goes by @avinlander asked Wheaton on Tumblr:

"Question: I have more of an opinion question for you. When fans of things hear about misconduct happening on sets/behind-the-scenes are they allowed to still enjoy the thing? Or should it be boycotted completely? Example: I've been a major fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer since I was a teenager and it was currently airing. I really nerded out on it and when I lost my Dad at age 16 'The Body' episode had me in such cathartic tears. Now we know about Joss Whedon. I haven't rewatched a single episode since his behavior came to light. As a fan, do I respectfully have to just box that away? Is it disrespectful of the actors that went through it to knowingly keep watching?"

And Wheaton offered this response, which he shared on Facebook:

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."