'I am CardioSmart' Contest Recognizes Kansas Woman for Living Well with Heart-Disease

Contact: Nicole Napoli, nnapoli@acc.org, 202-375-6523

WASHINGTON (Feb 29, 2016) -

Kathy Webster was born with a heart defect that contributed to her developing atrial fibrillation, a chaotic rapid heartbeat that greatly increases risk of stroke, in her 40s. Thanks to the unconditional support of her family and friends, and the care of her medical team, she’s made it through two open heart surgeries; and with her golden retriever Murphy as her constant walking companion, she lost 60 lbs. and established a heart healthy lifestyle. Because of her commitment to living well with heart disease, Webster is being recognized by the American College of Cardiology’s “I am CardioSmart” contest.

CardioSmart is the ACC’s patient education and support program. Its mission is to engage, inform and empower patients to better prepare them to participate in their own care. The “I am CardioSmart” contest recognizes individuals living well with heart disease. Webster was among five finalists representing different heart conditions chosen by “I am CardioSmart” this year.

Webster was born with supravalvular stenosis, a narrowing of the large blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body, but she was not properly diagnosed until she was 18 years old. She had her first open heart surgery at that time and spent the next 30 years living life with no symptoms.

In her 40s she developed atrial fibrillation, which caused rapid and irregular heartbeats, fatigue and shortness of breath; it can also increase your risk of stroke. Webster was also diagnosed with aortic regurgitation, a leaking of the heart valve that causes blood to flow in the wrong direction. Eventually, the aortic regurgitation progressed to the point that she needed another open heart surgery in her 50s.

In the five years following her second open heart surgery, Webster gained 60 lbs. Her shortness of breath, exercise intolerance and irregular heartbeats returned.

“I attributed my symptoms to my heart disease, not my lifestyle choices,” Webster said. “When I met with my cardiologist at a routine visit, all my numbers were bad—high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood glucose. My BMI was in the obese category. My blood glucose was one point away from being pre-diabetic.”

Webster said she decided right then that she needed to make lifestyle changes.

“My son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 12, and he has done such an incredible job of coming to terms with his disease, which requires constant, day-in and day-out attention and management,” she said. “I needed to demonstrate to him and to myself that I could develop the discipline to lead a healthy lifestyle just like he must do every single day.”

She lost 60 lbs. in six months by counting and tracking calories and getting at least 10,000 steps a day. All of her numbers are now in normal range and she has even been able to lower her medication doses.

“I have become a true believer of how important weight management and exercise (or lack thereof) are to my health and well-being,” she said.

Webster said she has a great relationship with her cardiologist at the University of Kansas Hospital, which has helped her stay on track in managing her heart health.

“I feel comfortable in asking all sorts of questions, and my doctor takes the time to discuss and explain until I fully understand,” she said. “I do not hesitate to reach out to the medical team if I have questions or concerns.”

She also said other women with heart disease inspire her, especially the women she has met through her work with WomenHeart, the National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease. Webster currently serves as chair of the WomenHeart board of directors.

“I strive to support others, sharing my success story with the hope that others are educated and motivated to make positive changes in their lives,” Webster said.

The winners of this year’s “I am CardioSmart” contest were featured on CardioSmart’s Facebook page. The public was then allowed to vote on the most inspirational story and select the overall winner, which was Christian Jacobs of West Jefferson, Ohio.

The four other heart disease condition winners from the “I am CardioSmart” contest are being announced throughout February to bring awareness to heart disease during Heart Month.

To learn more about preventing or living well with heart disease, visit www.cardiosmart.org.

To learn more about Webster’s story, visit www.cardiosmart.org/Connect/Patient-Stories/Kathy-Webster.

To learn more about atrial fibrillation, visit www.cardiosmart.org/Heart-Conditions/Atrial-Fibrillation.

The American College of Cardiology is a 52,000-member medical society that is the professional home for the entire cardiovascular care team. The mission of the College is to transform cardiovascular care and to improve heart health. The ACC leads in the formation of health policy, standards and guidelines. The College operates national registries to measure and improve care, provides professional medical education, disseminates cardiovascular research and bestows credentials upon cardiovascular specialists who meet stringent qualifications. For more information, visit acc.org.


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