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Northwestern student designs heart health workshop for college-aged women

Interactive event Feb. 25 at Northwestern may serve as pilot program for other college campuses

EVANSTON - A Northwestern University undergraduate student has developed a workshop to show young women why heart disease isn’t only a problem for older men.

The free workshop will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25, in the Wildcat Room (room 101) in Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive in Evanston. It is open to the public.

When pre-med sophomore Annie Krall read an article in Northwestern Medicine magazine about a 33-year-old woman who suffered cardiac arrest, she was struck by the revelation that heart problems can happen to anyone — even an active young woman — without much warning.

Working with Northwestern Medicine cardiologist Dr. Marla Mendelson, who was featured in the magazine article, Krall designed the workshop to be fun and informative.

Attendees will learn how to recognize the signs of a heart attack, what to do when a heart attack strikes and how women in their 20s can start enhancing their cardiovascular health and continue good habits as they get older.

The owner of Pure Barre in Evanston will host a pop-up class, and a Northwestern staff personal trainer will lead a mini workout. The workshop also will include a myth-busting session, a question-and-answer portion and raffle prizes.

“Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States,” Krall said. “The amazing women on the Northwestern campus are under some unbelievable stress, and they’re going to be the leaders of this country. But they have to be alive and well if they want to lead companies, join networks and be empowered.”

To plan the workshop, Krall connected with Mendelson, director of the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute’s Women’s Cardiovascular Health Program at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and an associate professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

After exchanging a few emails, Krall and Mendelson brainstormed ideas for bringing heart health information to young women. Krall was nervous about their first meeting, but she put on a purple dress and rallied her confidence. Once they started talking, Krall said she was immediately at ease with the kind and welcoming Mendelson.

Mendelson, who has organized conferences on women’s cardiovascular health, said Krall’s idea for the workshop was “the seed of a great idea and a pilot project that could be really important.” She said Krall was willing to do the legwork.

“It’s important for women to be armed with the facts and to be their own advocates as far as their health,” Mendelson said. “College-aged women are receptive to this information, but there’s not a lot of credible information out there for them to find. People think we’re going to talk about bad experiences, but we want to look at the positive things people can do for primary prevention of heart disease.”

The workshop is designed as a pilot program, which Krall and Mendelson hope to share with other college campuses across the country.

“We’re emphasizing the fact that women can come away from this Saturday afternoon with information they can take with them,” Krall said. “They can learn the basic overall message and get reminders about why good habits will help you later in life.”

Krall, who is majoring in both German and religious studies as an undergraduate student, said creating the workshop has helped her develop her love of medical education, and it’s given her an “unbelievable role model.”

Krall wants to attend Feinberg for medical school and become a doctor. She plans to travel to Berlin with Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences’ department of German, where she will conduct medical research with Syrian physicians who are adapting to the German medical system.

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