Love Your Heart

The first step to heart health is self-care

By Kd Reep

Susan E. Levy will share her story in Little Rock on February 12.     photography: COURTESY SUSAN E. LEVY

Susan E. Levy will share her story in Little Rock on February 12.     photography: COURTESY SUSAN E. LEVY


Women lead with their hearts; there’s no doubt about that. We feel the hurts and triumphs of our children, the passion and frustration of our partners, the victories and defeats of our friends, family and community. What we don’t do, however, is care for our hearts as much as we care for the hearts of everyone else in our lives. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States. It killed almost 300,000 women in 2009, which accounts for one in every four deaths of women. According to the December 2012 report, The Burden of Heart Disease & Stroke in Arkansas, which was prepared by Lucy Im, MPH and Chief, Chronic Disease Epidemiology Section at the Arkansas Department of Health, heart disease is the largest single killer of Arkansans as well as Americans. 

Although heart disease is sometimes thought of as a “man’s disease,” according to the CDC, around the same number of women and men die each year of heart disease in the United States. Despite increases in awareness over the past decade, only 54 percent of women recognize that heart disease is their top killer. 

Conquering this foe, however, will take adjustments to lifestyle, the most important of which is eating a healthy diet. Susan E. Levy, the founder of the Well-Fed Heart program and a partner with CHI St. Vincent in Little Rock, has been down the very road that Arkansas women are traveling every day in ignoring their heart health. 

“It was two years after my son died, and I was still fragile—emotionally and mentally,” she says on her blog. “I was through the hormonal tide known as menopause. I was overweight, and my body ached. My numbers (cholesterol, blood sugar, waist/hip ratio) were all going the wrong way. My movement consisted of too much sitting. I was not exactly a poster child for my business as a heart-healthy living expert.”

She began taking “baby steps,” as she calls them, which became a path for her that would help her blaze a new and healthier trail. 

“It would also be a trail that would sustain me through even more troubled times to come,” she says. Susan chronicled her steps in a book, The 8 Principles of a Heart-Healthy Woman, and she will be presenting two cooking demonstrations at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. at CHI St. Vincent Heart Clinic Arkansas in Little Rock on Friday, February 12. 

“Because I’ve been doing this for more than 25 years, I want to show women and families how they can make better choices for life, one bite at a time,” says Susan, who also is a spokesperson for the American Heart Association’s Go Red Campaign. 

To register for the free Heart-Healthy Cooking demonstrations, visit
*fewer women than men survive their first heart attack.