Jennifer Lapidus, 31, admits that as a young woman her heart health was never a top priority. That changed in 2013 when she lost her father, David, to a sudden fatal heart attack caused by undetected heart disease.
“Losing my dad to a heart attack definitely influenced me to make lifestyle changes and to think about prioritizing my own heart health,” Lapidus, the Senior Graphic Designer for Corporate Branding and Communications at Swarovski says.
While heart attacks have traditionally been characterized as an “old man’s disease,” recent studies indicate they are occurring in younger people, especially women. According to data published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation, over the last two decades the proportion of acute myocardial infarction (heart attack) hospitalizations has increased for young patients and was most pronounced among women.
Researchers say this trend parallels an increase in cardiovascular risk factors, including hypertension and diabetes, among younger patients. Additionally, young women were more likely to die from heart attack and are less likely to receive the appropriate care or medications.
“I decided to honor my father by committing my time to helping prevent this tragedy from happening to others,” Lapidus said. “As young adults, our health is a gift we can no longer take for granted.”
According to Lapidus and her peers in the American Heart Association’s Young Professionals, a group of young adult volunteers in New York City who want to make a difference by increasing awareness and education of cardiovascular diseases and stroke, this new insight has motivated to take-on heart disease and stroke. They will gather on November 15 for the YP Red Ball.
“As young leaders in our fields, we have a responsibility to help create positive change in people’s lives by bringing awareness and education on all important health matters,” Lapidus said. “By banding together in fun settings like the YP Red Ball, we have the ability to fund the research that will make an impact and help save lives.”
Mackenzie Gelber, who will serve as co-Chair of the YP Red Ball, believes that young professionals can help motivate their peers by utilizing their professional platform. Earlier this year, she helped create a partnership between iHeartRadio, and two of the American Heart Association’s cornerstone events in New York City, the Heart & Stroke Ball and CycleNation.
“Other health nonprofits have done an incredible job raising awareness about cancer in young women, stressing the importance of annual checkups at a young age,” Gelber said. “After seeing the new research, we can’t emphasize enough that it is just as important, maybe even more, for young adults to visit a cardiologist and be mindful of their heart health.”
But Gelber recognizes that with the demands of work, social life and the pressures of living in fast-paced cities, there are many factors preventing young adults from prioritizing their health. However, she and the Young Professionals group know that it’s never too early for you to focus on your health.
“We need to raise awareness that without preventative care, it is nearly impossible for us to discover any health issues until it is too late,” Gelber says. “As young adults, we can set the stage for a lifetime of good health by seeing a physician sooner, getting our cholesterol checked earlier, and focusing more on exercising and eating healthier foods.
“I hope that with the Young Professionals Red Ball, we can help people to stop thinking, ‘Oh, I’m too young to get heart disease,’” Gelber said.
Michael Rothbaum, a medical student at New York Medical College and member of the Young Professionals group, understands what it’s like to be both patient and aspiring doctor.
“As a medical student I chose to get involved with the American Heart Association in order to educate and empower my peers to make healthy lifestyle modifications with the hope that I would never need to see them as my patients in the future,” Rothbaum said. “Reading the new research about rising heart attack and chronic disease among young people motivates me to continue advocating for my friends and loved ones.”
The YP Red Ball 2019 Medical Honoree, Gregory Janis, MD, from NYU Langone Health, wants to remind young adults that they are not invincible.
“Young people often feel invincible, but they need to realize that early recognition and treatment of cardiovascular risk factors, whether medically or via lifestyle modification, gives them the power to write their own narrative,” Dr. Janis said. “Cardiovascular disease is a progressive yet preventable disease process.”
The 2019 YP Red Ball will uplift the contributions of volunteers Alexandra Levine, Jennifer Lapidus, and Kate Harrington. Thank you to the 2019 Red Ball Sponsors, MediaCom and The Berman Group.
For more information about the YP Red Ball scheduled for Friday, November 15, please visit youngprofessionals.heart.org
Diego is the Communications Director for the American Heart Association in New York City. He loves sharing powerful stories that inspire people to take control of their health.