Contact: Nicole Napoli, email@example.com, 202-375-6523
WASHINGTON (Feb 07, 2017) -
A genetic disease put Allison Jamison on cholesterol-lowering medication at the age of 5. Since then she has had to be an active manager of her own heart health. Because of Jamison’s commitment to advocating for herself and raising awareness about heart disease, she has been recognized by the American College of Cardiology’s “I am CardioSmart” contest.
Jamison inherited familial hypercholesterolemia (FH), which both her father and grandfather had. It’s a condition that makes the liver incapable of removing excess LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, and often leads to aggressive heart disease at a young age. In Jamison’s case, FH caused her cholesterol level to reach 800—when she was just 5 years old.
“I was immediately put on medication, and our family modified our diets,” Jamison said. “A few years later, I was also diagnosed with a bicuspid aortic valve. We later learned that I had a different kind of FH than my father or grandfather, called homozygous FH (HoFH). I had inherited two genes for high cholesterol, one from each of my parents.”
Although Jamison and her family knew that she was unlikely to avoid heart disease completely, she made every effort to maximize her potential for a healthy life.
“I watched my diet and was physically active from a young age. I took an active role in my health care, even as a teenager. I was educated about HoFH, so I could talk about my disease and explain why I needed aggressive treatment. I regularly saw my cardiologist who managed my medication and monitored my valve,” Jamison said. “By 15, I had been on medications for 10 years and had undergone numerous echocardiograms, stress tests, blood tests and other cardiac tests. We were able to get my cholesterol down to the mid-400s, which wasn’t ideal, but it was something.”
At 28, Jamison had a single bypass and an aortic valve replacement at Heart Hospital of Austin in Austin, Texas. Her first child was born prematurely shortly after. She continued to stay active and carefully monitor her health as her family grew. In 2011, a routine stress echocardiogram at her doctor’s office became a life-threatening emergency for Jamison.
“As I stepped off the treadmill, my heart suddenly stopped,” she said. “The staff used defibrillator paddles to save my life. I was found to have a 99 percent blockage in my right coronary artery and a failing mitral valve. Three days later, I had a second bypass surgery and a mitral valve replacement at Jewish Hospital in Louisville. I was 35 years old.”
Today, Jamison enjoys life while continually monitoring her condition and advocating for her health.
“I have always taken an active role in my own health care, and I take time to get to know my doctors and ensure that they are open to working with patients as partners,” Jamison said. “I am very grateful that I have always had physicians who were willing to listen to me and to treat my condition aggressively. Although I had open heart surgery in my 20s and 30s, today I feel strong and hopeful for the future.”
Currently, Jamison works with the FH Foundation to spread awareness about FH and provide support and education for those who have the genetic condition. Jamison says her personal motto is “life is what you make it.”
“Yes, my family has a genetic disease that makes all of us susceptible to dangerous heart disease,” she said. “But, by being proactive and keeping a positive attitude, my family and I live a full and happy life.”
CardioSmart is the patient education and support program developed by the ACC. Its mission is to engage, inform and empower patients to better prepare them to participate in their own care. In 2013, CardioSmart established a contest to find individuals who were living well with specific heart disease conditions: congenital heart defect, heart failure, atrial fibrillation, heart attack, coronary artery disease or stroke. Four finalists were chosen this year and their winning profiles were featured on CardioSmart’s Facebook page. A vote on the most inspirational story was held on Facebook.
Jacob Burris of Eugene, Oregon, was selected as the overall winner. The two other “I am CardioSmart” contest finalists are Roxanne Watson of Nanuet, New York, and Phillip Cartozian of Fresno, California.
To learn more about Jamison’s story, visit www.cardiosmart.org/Connect/Patient-Stories/Allison-Jamison.
To learn more about familial hypercholesterolemia, visit www.cardiosmart.org/Heart-Conditions/High-Cholesterol/High-Cholesterol-Home/Familial-Hypercholesterolemia.
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, offers cardiovascular accreditation to hospitals and institutions, provides professional medical education, disseminates cardiovascular research and bestows credentials upon cardiovascular specialists who meet stringent qualifications. For more, visit acc.org.