Going Red with Heart – Nationally


“Each year, we lose one in three women to cardiovascular disease and myself, my sister and my mom ARE those one in three,” said Stephanie Bowden, 27-year-old heart disease survivor who works at Wake Forest Biotech Place in Winston-Salem. 

Stephanie was 11 years old when she was first diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a genetic cardiovascular condition where her heart muscle thickens, making it harder for the heart to pump. But, she found out – it was a family thing. Harden Stevens, her grandfather, had it. Then, her mother, Kimberly, and now, Stephanie and her sister, Allison, both have it.

At 14 years old, Stephanie had her first open heart surgery at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Brenner Children’s Hospital. They shaved the heart muscle, and she had a defibrillator implanted. “It was scary, but I was well taken care of. I did have restrictions like not being able to be involved in or play any competitive sports. I didn’t let that or anything else hold me back from being active in other ways, though,” remembered Stephanie.

In February of 2022, Stephanie’s mother passed away much too young due to this heart condition. “We lost my mother at just 51 years old, and that is not part of my plan. I don’t want that to be part of my own future,” said Stephanie.

Then, a year ago, Stephanie had her first experience with AFIB, which is an irregular or racing heart rate. “It felt like I was running a marathon in place. Adam, my fiancé at the time, was with me when it happened, and he immediately knew something was wrong. We decided to go to the emergency room and, while walking through the doors, my defibrillator went off for the first time. It was like being hit by a truck,” shared Stephanie. It did exactly what it was supposed to do, it shocked her heart back into rhythm. 

At 27 years old, she has now learned more about herself. “I’m more in tune with my body. For example, I know I should avoid gaining a lot of weight. In fact, I’ve actually lost 50 pounds just by walking and being more active. I also really watch what I eat, and I don’t eat things with a bunch of sodium in them. It’s been so long since I’ve eaten things with high sodium that I hate the taste of salt now,” said Stephanie.

“Living with this condition, there are good and bad days, but sometimes it’s on the front burner and sometimes it’s on the back burner. I try my best to keep it on the back burner. I also never let it hold me back. I do whatever I can, whatever my body allows me to do,” she shared.

In January of 2023, she married her husband, Adam. “Initially, it’s scary to be in a relationship with someone because you constantly think about if you are a burden and don’t want to just be putting all of your situation onto that person. But I can say, he has been great, and he is one of my biggest supporters. We are also planning to go through genetic testing to see if we are comfortable starting a family of our own,” shared Stephanie.

“As a young woman with heart disease, you can feel so alone. I want other young women going through heart issues to try and not be afraid. It may seem like it, but you are not alone! You should be resilient for yourself. Set realistic goals, stay close to your support system and don’t be afraid to live your life and to dream. Anything you want to conquer, you should. Never say you’re in a box, and never say you can’t!” said Stephanie. Nearly 45% of women ages 20+ are living with some form of cardiovascular disease.

Stephanie is proud to be a member of the nationally recognized American Heart Association 2024 Class of Real Women survivors. “Being a part of this amazing lifelong sisterhood of women survivors has been empowering. By sharing my story this year from a national and local stage, I could help to save someone else’s mom or sister. I want to help give people hope. Hope for a full life. Hope for the future,” shared Stephanie.

The American Heart Association is celebrating 100 years of saving lives and pioneering scientific discoveries. For two decades, the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women movement has been about women motivating each other, educating each other and inspiring each other to fight women’s greatest health threat – cardiovascular disease.  

To donate to Go Red for Women in the Triad benefitting women’s heart disease and stroke research, awareness and education, visit heart.org/TriadGoRed

Go Red for Women is nationally sponsored by CVS Health and locally sponsored by Live Fierce. Life is Why Sponsor Novant Health.



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