Topeka woman's brush with death highlights an important factor in heart health

TOPEKA, Kan, (WIBW) -- In the fall of 2016, Rhonda Mitchell and her husband took a vacation get away, and it’s a trip that changed her life forever.

“I was getting ready for bed, and I had gone around the edge of the bed and said to him, hey let’s turn off the TV and read before we got to sleep. And he said I literally fell over on him, I was gone,” she said.

Mitchell suffered from sudden cardiac arrest. Her husband saved her life by immediately taking action and performing CPR.

She always paid attention to her heart health. She had two heart conditions, but wasn’t aware of a third until her doctor asked her to look more closely at her family’s history.

“He said have you ever had any family members just suddenly die? And I started the list, And it was very lengthy. On the same side of the Family. You know, grandpa, Uncle David, mom,” she remembered.

But, family history is just one of several other risk factors that can affect you risk for heart disease, Dr. Swapna Mamidipally, a cardiologist with St. Francis, explained.

“Smoking is a major risk factor. High blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and physical inactivity like being sedentary increases your chance of heart disease. Being overweight," she said.

Dr. Mamidipally said 80% of all cases can be prevented by changing small habits and paying close attention to numbers.

It’s something Mitchell has done and continues to do so daily.

“Blood pressure daily. Sugars. I check my sugars because I am also diabetic. So sugars daily. Weight. He has me check my weight every day because when you have trouble with your heart a lot of times fluids build up,” she said.

Mitchell now has a pacemaker to help pump her heart, and while it has slowed her down just a little she said it hasn’t stopped her from being a heart warrior.

She and others continue to spread heart health awareness and say listening to your heart could save your life.

“I encourage women to understand that they are a priority. They got to take care of themselves and make the right choices for themselves,” Dr, Mamidipally said.