She was 32 and working 10-plus hours a day in finance, well aware of her responsibility to wisely invest other people’s hard-earned money.

She was Mama to a 2-year-old son who craved her attention.

She was married to another financier whose job required longer hours than hers. So when she got home, she made dinner for everyone and handled many household duties.

Julie Braun also was 25 weeks pregnant.

With so much to juggle, she rarely found time for her favorite stress relievers — working out at the gym, running or swimming. Surely escaping Vermont in February for a week in Florida would do her some good.

Instead, that’s when it all caught up to her.

Still dazed following an emergency procedure, she’ll never forget the doctor saying, “You had yourself a little heart attack.”

Young, fit and with no family history, Julie was an unlikely candidate for heart disease. Yet that unlikeliness makes her a superb candidate to lead us into this column, the first in a series that will explore the ongoing revolution of how we think about health and wellness.

Health and wellness are the pillars that make success sustainable. As each of us seek to thrive in these areas, Thrive Global will be a wonderful resource for insight and inspiration. I aim to be among those who can serve as a guide, powered by the ideas and efforts of the millions of volunteers and supporters of my organization, the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association.

For 92 years, the AHA has led the way in helping Americans treat, beat and prevent heart disease and stroke. We’ve invested more than $4 billion in research, and continue to be the top funder in this area outside the federal government. Along with our programs — such as Go Red For Women, our movement that teaches women about their risks of heart disease, and how to reduce them — we’re constantly seeking to improve and extend lives.

The AHA is thrilled to share our expertise on this platform. I am honored that Arianna Huffington personally invited me and the AHA to join together with her Thrive Global platform to bring important and inspirational stories to our followers.

My pledge to her, and to you, is that my columns will provide interesting, actionable information — news you can use, to speak — all rooted in these important facts:

· Heart disease is the №1 killer of all Americans, and the №1 killer of women, claiming more lives each year than all forms of cancer combined.

· Heart disease also is highly preventable.

I look forward to describing groundbreaking research and introducing you to the amazing researchers behind the science. I also look forward to sharing more fascinating tales of people like Julie Braun. Let’s return to her story and the life-changing moment of learning she’d just survived a heart attack.

The news was shocking, of course.

Or was it?

She’d long considered heart attacks as something that happen to overweight old men, but recent events had chipped away at that stereotype.

Four years before, her lifelong friend Tania Sicard died of a heart attack, also while pregnant with her second child.

Two years before, she attended a Go Red For Women luncheon and saw a video starring Elizabeth Banks as a working mom trying to get her husband, kids and self through a typically frenzied morning when she was stricken by “just a little heart attack.” Julie thought of that video during and after her ordeal.

She laughed at the similarity between Banks having “just a little heart attack” and her doctor’s words. She laughed again when she realized she’d parroted another line from Banks’ character: “Do I look like the type of person to have a heart attack?”

Julie’s heart attack was caused by a blood clot that worked its way to her heart. The source of the clot turned out to be a hole in her heart, a birth defect known as patent foramen ovale that she didn’t know she had.

The problem began following a walk with her father-in-law. She twisted her neck and felt pain in her chest and arm.

She figured she’d pinched a nerve. She stretched, rested, drank water … and none of it helped.

Then came thoughts of Tania and Elizabeth Banks. As much as Julie hated interrupting the vacation, she called her doctor in Vermont, then had her father-in-law take her to the hospital.

Julie soon recovered and later delivered her daughter, Isabel, with no complications.

In February, Julie will celebrate three years since her heart attack. She also will be the co-chair of her local Go Red For Women luncheon, the very event in which she saw the “Just A Little Heart Attack” video.

She’s still a working mom and wife, so adding this duty to the mix is something else for her to juggle. But it’s meaningful to her and — most of all — she’s vigilant about keeping her work-life balance in check.

Julie told her story at this past year’s Go Red For Women luncheon and has been awed by the reaction. Dozens of women have said she inspired them to schedule a well-woman checkup. A client said Julie’s story inspired her to visit the ER one night when she had chest pains for fear that if she tried sleeping, she may not wake up. Then there was this email:

While the Elizabeth Banks video stuck in your mind, it’s the Julie Braun video that will stick in my mind.

“I love talking to women about heart health, encouraging them to know the warning signs and to listen to their gut if something is happening,” Julie said. “The concept of paying it forward is huge for me.”

It’s important to us at the American Heart Association, too. I’m excited to have this new outlet that brings us together.

Originally published at


  • Nancy Brown

    CEO, American Heart Association

    CEO of the American Heart Association, the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization fighting cardiovascular diseases, including stroke.