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Local Instructor Raises Awareness About "Silent" Heart Dangers

5:22 PM, Feb 5, 2013   |    comments
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Silver Spring, Md. (WUSA) -- Lucy Bowen McCauley is a leader in the arts here in DC Metro area.  

She started the Bowen McCauley Dance Company in 1996, they are known world-wide for innovative and electrifying performances that blend ballet, theater, and modern dance.  A ballet dancer herself since the age of seven, Lucy is an avid athlete and and has always stayed in shape.  

But at the age of 40, her life almost came to a screeching halt.

Bowen McCauley says, "It was about twelve years ago.  I started to have some symptoms like a gray curtain over my eye; I also became very short of breath, which was unusual for a dancer."

Alarmed by the strange symptoms, Lucy saw a doctor.  It turns out she had a hidden heart abnormality, one that could have killed her in an instant.

She remembers, "You could've knocked me over with a feather when they diagnosed me with idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy."

That means the heart becomes enlarged and pumps weakly and erratically.  Often times, doctors don't know what triggers the condition. Bowen McCauley underwent three heart surgeries at Virginia Hospital Center and now has a combination pacemaker/defibrillator inside her chest.

Data from the device shows it has corrected her heartbeat several times when it became dangerously slow or fast.  

McCauley says, "I would not be alive today without my doctors and my surgeries and the ICD in my chest.  I had many episodes, I would not be here today."

The American Heart Association says many women don't realize that heart disease is their number one killer.  They are more concerned and aware of cancer risk.  AHA says while 1 in 31 American Women die from breast cancer, heart disease causes 1 in 3 deaths each year.

Final, but vital statistic: 90% of women have on or more risk factor for developing heart disease.  Do you know yours?