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RaiJean Stroud Lives to Tell Others About Heart Disease

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RaiJean Stroud is all about fashion. She owns five pairs of high-heeled leopard shoes. She is obsessed with a Tadashi Shoji cutout jersey boatneck black dress. She has never met a sale she didn't like. She is the young mother of a three-year-old boy, the proud owner of a Bachelor's Degree in Business Management, a Master's Degree in Finance, and is seeking a second Master's in Nonprofit Administration. She has three blogs. She is busy and active. She also has congestive heart failure, an enlarged heart, and cardiomyopathy. At the ripe old age of 32, she has faced death, and lived to tell about it. That has, in fact, become her mission: to tell the world about heart problems, which she does at the Bleeding Heart Project.

Three years ago, RaiJean was recovering from giving birth. She felt tired, which isn't unusual. She often had a hard time breathing, though, which was odd, and that eventually developed into walking pneumonia. When she went to see the doctor about it, he suspected an underlying problem and ran some tests. When he came back with the totally unexpected diagnosis of life-threatening heart problems, RaiJean's life was turned upside down. She has endured multiple surgeries and complications since then, but instead of throwing in the towel, she decided to reach out to others, to helpĀ people who have been diagnosed with similar conditions, to help them better understand what heart disease looks like, and to offer them peer-to-peer counseling.

"Don't get me wrong, when I was first diagnosed, I had my pity party, my days when I asked 'What did I do wrong?'" RaiJean says. But then she asked herself what she needed to learn from this, what opportunities existed in this obscuration of her life's opportunities. She thought of how close she came to dying, of the fear she felt about that and how it would have affected her son, and how useful it would have been to have someone who had been through similar difficulties as a mentor. So, having been in the blogging world for a few years by then, and knowing the power of social media, she started the Bleeding Heart Project blog, to increase awareness of the prevalence of heart disease, teach others how to avoid it or live a good life with it, and to provide an opportunity for those living with it to help others in similar shoes, be they leopard-print or not.

Heart disease is amazingly prevalent, being the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S. and other industrialized countries. It may affect individuals at any age age, but the risk of getting it increases with smoking, eating meat, having high cholesterol levels, diabetes, and high blood pressure, and is more common in men and those who have close relatives with ischaemic heart disease. On Bleeding Heart's Facebook page, RaiJean posts links to stories of other people who have heart disease, and effective exercise routines, among other things. She looks like a vibrant young woman, one you'd never guess was sick, and she aims to help those millions of people of people affected by the disease look and feel just as healthy.

You can read more about RaiJean at her fashion blog Swa-Rai.com, or her mommy blog SwaiRai Mommy, or at BleedingHeartProject.org.

Do you or anyone you know suffer from heart problems? What has been most helpful in dealing with their disease?

Feature photo courtesy of Flickr.

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