Kathy Kastan: You’re Never Too Busy for a Heart Attack
Too busy to go to the doctor for a checkup? Kathy Kastan, a heart bypass survivor at the age of 42, knows women are faced with the challenges of the sandwich generation – caring for children and parents – but that doesn’t mean they can overlook their own health and risk being derailed by a personal health crisis.
A licensed social worker with a master’s degree in education, Kastan is the director of Duke Medicine’s Women’s Health and Advocacy Initiative. She also has been a spokesperson for the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s The Heart Truth®/Red Dress campaign since 2003.
Kastan is passionate about encouraging women to advocate for themselves. As the keynote speaker at Carolina Parent’s Women@Work Breakfast Oct. 22, 8-11 a.m. at Embassy Suites in Cary, Kastan will share a humorous perspective on family life and tips to help women reduce stress, give up hard-to-break habits, and make new and healthier lifestyle choices.
“Studies show women put themselves at the bottom of the family pyramid and fall somewhere after the family pet on the priority list,” Kastan says.
Women would treat a friend better than they treat themselves, she adds, saying she has run into so many women who delay treatment and then offer a laundry list of excuses such as, “I have to go get my haircut,” or “I have to take the dog to the vet.”
Women are basically saying they are “too busy” for a heart attack, or any other illness, which is why they need to heed her message, she says.
The mother of three boys, now ages 26, 23 and 21, Kastan knows what it is like to be pulled in different directions. She understands that the big buzzword for women these days is “balance,” but says women should not stress too much if the goal is not attainable on a daily basis. With 50 percent of the workforce made up of women who are looking after so many others every day, balance can be a “fluid thing,” Kastan says.
“If you have a day where you find balance, thank your lucky stars, ” she says. “Really, it is about finding ways to make your life less chaotic and stressful.”
Women are shortchanging their health when they don’t make time for self care, and not just as it relates to heart disease, but for all diseases, she says.
She also says women need to consider their genetic predisposition for various diseases. An athlete and a nonsmoker, Kastan still ended up having a heart bypass.
Knowing your personal risk factors is a must, Kastan says, especially in the Southeast, where we are in the middle of the stroke belt and obesity rates are skyrocketing. Fortunately, education and awareness campaigns mean more women are getting the message that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women.
This past spring, Kastan spearheaded the first Mother of all Health Fairs in Durham to provide free health screenings, community outreach, a panel on women’s health issues and a benefit concert to help women in the community.
Kastan also has authored two books to help women make new, life-altering, healthy choices. She wrote From the Heart: A Woman’s Guide to Living Well with Heart Disease (2008) and co-authored WomenHeart’s All Heart Family Cookbook (2007). She also is a blogger with the Huffington Post.
Kastan’s hope is that more women will put their own health first rather than last, and ultimately survive the sandwich generation.
Join Carolina Parent for breakfast, networking, a keynote presentation by Kathy Kastan and a lively panel discussion at our Women@Work Breakfast, Oct. 22, 8-11 a.m., at Embassy Suites, 201 Harrison Oaks Blvd., Cary. Purchase tickets at carolinaparent.com/womenatwork.
This article was updated on Oct. 9, 2013, to correct two errors. We apologize for incorrectly reporting Kastan’s son’s age as 22 instead of 23 and that she wrote two cookbooks, when she wrote one cookbook and one book.