Nadine Jenkins

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February 19: Nadine Jenkins

Nadine Jenkins; Heart Disease Survivor and Spokesperson for WomenHeart
Hometown: East Orange, NJ
Education: Lincoln University (Masters of Human Services degree) and PhD candidate in Health Science at University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey
Family: Husband Wesley, daughters Ashley and Alana and sons Ibn and Mikal

Nadine Jenkins, a 45-year-old mother of four, is a heart disease survivor and spokesperson for WomenHeart and the American Heart Association.

When she was 18 she was told that she had mitral valve prolapse and was advised to take antibiotics when having any surgery or dental procedures. While she always felt palpitations or the sensation of an irregular heartbeat, it was not until 1999 — when she was stuck in atrial fibrillation for several days — that she realized something was truly wrong. At just 34 years of age, doctors found evidence that at some point in time she had suffered a silent heart attack; even though it had permanently damaged her heart, she never even noticed the symptoms.

With no known risk factors, she was given beta-blockers and continued to do well. Then, in late summer 2003, she fainted. This resulted in more testing and a diagnosis of ventricular fibrillation. Five years later at age 37, she had a cardiac defibrillator implanted to regulate her abnormal heart rhythm.

Jenkins is proud of the steps she's taken to become a heart-disease survivor. "Remember, you can be young and beautiful and still have heart disease, so know your risk factors, eat right, exercise and always love your heart," she says.

In addition to her volunteer activities with the American Heart Association as a Survivor Ambassador, she is also a WomenHeart Champion. With WomenHeart, the National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease based in Washington, D.C., she serves as an advocate and educator. She participates in health fairs, symposiums and media events, as well as meeting with Congressional leaders to advocate for support of the Heart for Women Act.

Recently, Nadine modeled the winning design in "Project Runway"'s special Heart Health Challenge episode. The designs in the Design Your Heart Out "Project Runway" challenge were inspired by real-life stories of people who have faced or overcome the challenges of heart disease as part of Campbell's annual "AdDRESS Your Heart" campaign, in support of the American Heart Association's Go Red For Women movement.

The winning designer, Amy Sarabi, was motivated by Jenkins' perseverance and positive attitude. "I designed a dress to showcase Nadine's confidence and demonstrate her spirit in the fight against heart disease." "Project Runway" host Tim Gunn helped celebrate by joining these heroic women on the red carpet at the Woman's Day Red Dress Awards in New York City.

In 2007, Nadine returned to school and earned a Masters of Human Services (MHS) degree from Lincoln University (PA), and at present, she is a doctoral student at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) in pursuit of a PhD in Health Science. She is focused on community based, action-oriented research and the reduction and/or elimination of health disparities, like heart disease in women. It is her hope that through both research and practice, disease prevention and health education will ultimately improve how individuals approach their own health care.

Nadine Jenkins is from East Orange, New Jersey, and she is grateful to her husband Wesley, daughters Ashley and Alana and sons Ibn and Mikal, for all of their support.