Go Red for Women Luncheon held to promote heart health

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) -- Heart health was on the minds of nearly 350 women who attended the the Go Red for Women Luncheon in Roanoke today.

Ally Bowersock was like any other college student when her life suddenly changed forever.

"I was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect," Bowersock said

She suffered from significant repercussions and had to go through surgery. But if it wasn't for her healthy lifestyle, she wouldn't be here today.

"The strength of my heart is actually what saved my life, having withstood the effects of the defect," she said.

Her diagnosis didn't just change her health, it changed her career goal. She switched her major from physical therapy to exercise science. Bowersock said, "I decided to dedicate my life to prevention and education instead of treatment."

That's why she attended the Go Red for Women Luncheon at the Hotel Roanoke Friday afternoon--to help prevent heart disease and spread awareness.

"It's the number one killer of women, it's a silent killer, it's not something you can necessarily feel, and I think women tend to put other people's needs first, and so this is a good educational event but also one to bring people together to say hey, it can happen to anyone and here are some of the warning signs," Bowersock said.

"Sometimes coming to events like this helps people heal, if they've been through this, just being with other people who understand what they've been through and can recognize and put an arm around them, but also it's an opportunity to see there are other people who care," Alicia Smith, the Chair of the Executive Leadership Team for the Go Red for Women Campaign, said.

And they do care--many women raised their envelopes in the air--signifying they donated to help the cause, and they popped confetti to show their entire table donated.

"We're fundraising, a lot of these research funds go locally, we have research done at Carilion and Virginia Tech, so it stays right here in our community," Smith said

Speakers shared stories and tips.

"What people don't realize is your genetics is only responsible overall for around 20% of your health, the other 80% is what you do," Dr. Christina Dunbar Matos from Carilion Clinic said in a speech.

And what you do can save you, like it saved Bowersock.

"Everything that you do everyday contributes to your overall health, and it's not to late to improve your health."