Today Carmen Goers feels strong and healthy. But without help to change her life, stress could have killed her. She had high blood pressure, a family history of stroke, excess weight, too little exercise and sleep and a life out of balance. Stress exacerbated all those things.
Goers enrolled in weekly group meetings and activities through Better U. Originally an online program through the American Heart Association, facilitated by Franciscan Health Services, it helped women develop healthier lifestyles and understand the impact of stress.
“It taught me to be proactive in reducing stress and managing the stressors of my life,” Goers said in an interview. “I checked my blood pressure yesterday and it was 117/78—a beautiful number compared to the 142/98 that I was registering previously.”
Through Better U, Goers met Susan Eardley, a board-certified nurse specialist and clinician for Franciscan’s Health Aware program. She educates through Health Aware, an online source of risk assessment tools, and through AHA’s Go Red For Women campaign, in which Goers also participates. The Better U program is no longer available through the heart association, but Go Red For Women Ambassadors volunteer their time to raise awareness of heart disease as the No. 1 killer of women. Stress is an accomplice in that killer’s crime.
“We work on realistic goals, how much we can do, how much we can get rid of, what is important,” Eardley said. She recommends exercise and “taking time to just take a deep breath and stop some of the adrenaline flow that builds up on us. People who are under a lot of stress have a heightened stress response. Their body is always on high alert and that does damage.”
Goers said, “Every day, I put some time on the calendar that has no one’s best interest at heart but my own.”