Luncheon focuses on women’s heart health

Cullman Regional reaches gold level achievement from American Heart Association

Lily, Suzi and Elle Tillitski pose for a photo at Friday’s National Wear Red Day Luncheon in Cullman, hosted by Cullman Regional. Suzi Tillitski was a guest speaker. (Christy Perry for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Everyone was encouraged to “Rock the Red” Friday as part of National Wear Red Day, and Cullman Regional hosted its third annual National Wear Red Day Luncheon at Loft 212, focusing on women’s heart health.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), heart disease and stroke cause 1 in 3 deaths among women each year. Cullman Regional and the AHA encourage women to “know their numbers.”

According to the hospital, “Five numbers all women should know to take control of their heart health are total cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and body mass index (BMI). Knowing these numbers can help women and their healthcare providers determine their risk for developing cardiovascular disease.”

Special guest Suzi Roberson Tillitski shared her survival story at Friday’s luncheon.

A busy single mom of two young daughters, Tillitski was enjoying a fun day at Rock the South in 2014 when she began feeling strange. By the end of the evening, she was a code risk and being transported from her home at Smith Lake to Cullman Regional. 

“I was admitted and started diagnostics,” she said. “I was pumped full of medicines trying to get my heart back into rhythm.”

She said multiple attempts were made to establish a normal rhythm, and when asked at the hospital for permission to put her to sleep a second time, Tillitski recalled, “I remember, with tears in my eyes, I said, ‘Yes. Promise me I will wake up for my two beautiful daughters. They need me.’”

After months of tests, MRIs and surgeries, Tillitski now lives with an internal defibrillator.

“You think whatever bubble you live in exempts you from heart disease,” she said. “I’m here to say it does not. Most think that heart disease mainly effects men; however, I have learned that a lot of women and children suffer on a daily basis.” 

Some early symptoms of heart disease Tillitski experienced were shortness of breath, feeling exhausted and a racing heart.

Cardiologist Silvio Papapietro, M.D. spoke about the role of a healthy diet in achieving better heart health. He urged everyone to avoid salt.

“The eating habits in Cullman are probably some of the worst in the country,” he said. “Salt is the number one or two killer right now.”

Papapietro’s advice?  Only eat natural foods, nothing processed or fried.

He said, “Eat food, mostly plants, not too much. That’s it.”

He pointed to the Mediterranean Diet as the best diet plan available. 

“The darker the fruit or vegetable, the better it is for you. Cut back the sugar and fried foods. Now, we all like a steak and once in a while is OK,” Papapietro added. 

He also stressed the importance of exercise, saying, “You don’t have to be a jogger, a swimmer or a runner to walk around the mall. Even a little amount of exercise will increase your right to a healthy life.”

Guests at the luncheon were offered free health screenings from Cullman Regional.

Special recognition

Cullman Regional was recognized at Friday’s luncheon by the AHA for achieving the Gold level in Workplace Health Achievement. Last year, the hospital achieved the Silver level.  

The AHA uses a 55-question assessment to gather data used to determine a facility’s performance.

Cullman Regional Wellness Manager Amanda Satterfield explained, “All of our vending, we have to have certain vending options, community outreach and the things you do in the community that tie into heart health and cardiology services available are included in the assessment.”       

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Left to right are Amanda Satterfield, Cullman Regional Marketing, Community Outreach and Wellness; Cullman Regional Vice President, Marketing and Public Relations Lindsey Dossey; and Stephanie Cline from the American Heart Association. (Christy Perry for The Cullman Tribune)