Soap focuses on heart disease in women

HOLLYWOOD It's a fictional storyline airing on "General Hospital", but it's a reality of what happens to thousands of women. In her role as head nurse "Epiphany Johnson", Sonya Eddy suffers a heart attack.

The storyline is "General Hospital's" effort to increase awareness about the silent disease that experts say kills half-a-million women a year.

"We need as women to be aware that it is a killer," said Eddy. "It is silent, and we need to be on top of our game. We need to ask our doctors to screen us. Be bold. Be proactive."

In the soap storyline, Eddy's character meets other women who've had heart attacks or live with heart disease. But they aren't actors -- they are real-life heart disease survivors.

Molly McLellan with the American Heart Association is one of them.

"It's such a great thing, and people listen when an actress says you need to take care of your heart," said McLellan. "I think they're going to listen."

"We can educate. We have that ability. We're in the homes, and we do reach a lot of women, and this is for them. This is so important," said Leslie Charleson, who plays "Monica Quartermaine".

The symptoms associated with heart attacks in women can be atypical. Experts say women can experience chest and arm pain, as well as stiffness, like men do. But other signs include flu-like symptoms, and jaw, sinus or neck pain.

It's why McLellan says this storyline on "General Hospital" is so important.

"Know your blood pressure, know your cholesterol, eat healthy and exercise," said McLellan. "And really, we want to inspire women to live heart-healthy lives. That's our goal."

When the "Go Red for Women" campaign first launched four years ago, only 13 percent of women knew heart disease was the number one killer for women. Today, 52 percent know. The American Heart Association says they must continue to increase awareness.


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