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U-K Dancer’s Heart Health Gives New Rhythm to Cause

February 22, 2011

FRANKFORT, Ky. - University of Kentucky (UK) dancers don the blue school colors with pride, but a 21-year old heart disease survivor is happy to wear red in February to support American Heart Month. As an active 19-year-old who'd been dancing since she was three, UK dance team member Regan Judd never thought she'd barely cheat death at such a young age, until a rigorous practice left her breathless and suffering chest pains. It was nearly two years ago that the Louisville native received a life-changing diagnosis: a rare congenital heart condition that required open-heart surgery to repair.

Six months after surgery, she was back with the dance troupe and using her megaphone to send a new message.

"Heart disease doesn't have an age limit. You can be as young as a newborn to however old. It doesn't matter."

Judd and members of the UK Dance team recently appeared in the state Capitol to show support for the American Heart Association. The health advocates are urging state lawmakers to consider childhood obesity and smoke-free policies during this year's short legislative session.

As a student athlete, Judd understands the desire to push beyond the pain in order to excel. But, she says, given the rise in student athlete deaths from undiagnosed heart complications, she has a piece of wisdom to offer.

"Go get your symptoms checked out. It would be better to get a negative response than collapse at a practice and not be able to ever practice again or do your sport. There's been too many stories on TV about athletes collapsing and there just needs to be more awareness."

Experts say cardiovascular disease is the nation's leading killer of both men and women. Research suggests that one in 30 American women dies of breast cancer each year, but about one in three dies of heart disease.

Renee Shaw, Public News Service - KY