Heart 2 Heart Party aims to foster good cardiovascular health

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published February 8, 2012


Troy resident Michelle Haight had her first open-heart surgery when she was 2 months old. She was born with pulmonary stenosis and lived a relatively normal life after surgery, although she was always careful not to overexert herself.

Pulmonary stenosis is a heart valve disorder in which the heart valve cannot open wide enough, which results in a diminished blood flow to the lungs.

Haight was initially told she should not have children, but as years went on and advances in cardiovascular medicine were made, her doctor gave her the green light. She and her husband had three children, although each pregnancy was considered high-risk.

Six years ago, at age 35, Haight made and kept an appointment with a new cardiologist she’d been putting off and discovered her valve had deteriorated. Her right atrium had enlarged and was under much stress, and her heartbeat was irregular. She had her second open-heart surgery in July 2006, performed by a pediatric surgeon because she was born with the condition; her pulmonary valve was replaced with a pig’s valve.

“There’s not a lot of us born after 1970,” Haight said of those with her condition. She was born in ’69. “Prior to that, the survival rate was slim.”

Haight explained that treatment for the condition has changed over the years. Her second son, Dominic, was born with the same condition, and he’s encouraged to play sports, while Haight was discouraged from playing organized sports as a child.

“The idea is not to be sedentary, but be active,” she said. “The heart is a muscle and is strongest when it’s being used.”

While she had always walked to get exercise, after her surgery she kicked it up a few notches and tried Zumba dance fitness classes.

She loved it so much she became certified to teach the classes in 2010. “Zumba is so much fun,” she said.

Haight teamed up with two friends last year to host an event, geared toward women, to offer Zumba, yoga, meditation and self-massage techniques in one place during one evening. The event aims to raise awareness of heart health for women during February, which is American Heart Month.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., with one in every three deaths occurring from heart disease and stroke — 2,200 deaths each day.

Courtney Jones has been teaching yoga for two years and practiced yoga for 10 years. She said she was happy to participate when Haight asked. “Yoga has a benefit on the heart for relaxation,” she said. She will lead a 30-minute yoga class at this year’s event.

“Yoga fits all shapes and sizes,” Jones noted. “People think you have to bend like a pretzel, and you don’t. It’s a stress reliever, helps to gain mental clarity and is truly meditative.”

The key to good heart health, Haight said, is to “find something you enjoy doing and do it.”

The Heart 2 Heart Party will be held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Feb. 17 at Big Beaver United Methodist Church, 3753 John R. The cost is $15 per person in advance or $20 at the door. Call (248) 462-5224 or send email to heart2heart212@yahoo.com. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the American Heart Association.