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The Star Of Women’s Heart Health: Star Jones

Star Jones
Star Jones

After a major weight loss, nearly 14 years ago, Star Jones thought she was finally in a healthy place. Confusing her early symptoms with residual effects of a gastric bypass, Jones was diagnosed with heart disease in 2010. When told she needed to undergo open-heart surgery to repair her aortic valve — in order to stop the intense heart palpitations she was suffering from — Jones was in dismay.

Since her diagnosis and recovery from heart disease, Jones has made it her mission to advocate for women to live a heart-healthy lifestyle.

Mediaplanet: What was your understanding of heart disease before you were diagnosed?

Star Jones: I thought heart disease was an “old dude’s disease.” Not something that happened to newly thin, healthy, and active women. But I couldn’t have been more wrong.

How did you discover you had heart disease?

I was experiencing shortness of breath, dizziness, intermittent intense heart palpitations, and extreme fatigue. Not fatigue like “my life is so fabulously busy tired,” fatigue like “my body doesn’t feel healthy tired.” These, among several others, are classic symptoms of heart disease in women.

What was your initial reaction when you found out you had heart disease?

I was completely shocked — almost in denial. It just didn’t make sense that after successful weight loss surgery, and a drastically healthier life in recent years, I could have heart disease. 

What sort of treatment did you receive?

I underwent open-heart surgery — the real kind, where they crack your chest and take your heart out of your body — followed by three months of intensive cardiac rehabilitation. That was one of the best decisions of my life.

How did you prepare yourself for surgery?

Anyone who prepares to face open-heart surgery and says they’re not scared is lying. We’re all human and heart disease, particularly open-heart surgery, is scary stuff. Once I was diagnosed, the attorney in me kicked in. I wanted to know everything I could about heart disease, recovery, and how to live a heart-healthy life moving forward.

How did cardiac rehab aid in your recovery?

Open-heart surgery saved my life, but cardiac rehab gave me my life back. The process to regain your strength after open-heart surgery is grueling, but so worth it. Cardiac rehab gave me confidence and the physical strength I needed to thrive after surgery.

How do you ensure your heart remains healthy?

The bottom line: I eat less and I move a whole lot more. That’s oversimplifying but it’s not far from the truth. At the end of the day, I decided to prioritize my health every day — whether that’s scheduling time to exercise, making smart food choices, or just going to bed early to truly rest. For me, my health is now a non-negotiable.

Why have you made it a priority to raise awareness for heart health, especially amongst women?

Women are, as they say, “The hedge of protection for their families.” And when you think about it, women play a unique role in bringing heart health to their families. Not to mention, women just don’t know heart disease is their number one killer,* and that’s a real problem, especially because heart disease can be 80% preventable — 80%!

You’ve stated that many women deny the symptoms of heart disease — putting their own health second to their family’s — why do you think that is?

I think women are pulled in so many different directions that it’s less a conscious decision, but more a function of being a woman today — spouse, kids, career, parents, and friends. Being a modern, successful woman should mean prioritizing yourself — because if you’re not here, you can’t help anyone else.

* Star’s responses are based on American statistics.

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