Christine Cushing is no stranger to the devastating effects of heart disease and stroke, which have touched both sides of her family. Her mother, Georgia, currently lives with congestive heart failure.
As a beloved cookbook author, media personality and chef, Christine has been inspiring Canadians to cook for over 20 years. Now she is using her voice to help more women be aware of their risks and advocate for their heart and brain health.
She talked to us about her experience and her hopes.
Your mother had triple bypass surgery at age 75. But it had taken three years to get her heart disease diagnosed. What happened?
My mom was always taking care of everyone else. She was a go getter with high energy, who was in very good shape. She knew that something didn’t feel right, but she couldn’t pinpoint what she was feeling. She did see doctors, but if they don’t see anything wrong they’re not necessarily going to send you to a specialist.
I feel like this is where we have to make the distinction between men and women. Heart disease and stroke can manifest differently in women than men. I think as women we push it off, but deep inside we kind of know.
Has your mom’s experience affected how you manage your own health?
Yes it has. Now, I would seek out more advice, ask questions and know when I’m not feeling well.
Christine and her mother cooking together.
As women, I think we need to understand how our bodies work, get in touch with how we’re really feeling, and know what resources we have at our disposal. It’s important to know when and how to push to see a specialist. I think women need to be advocates of our own health in general.
- Know what to ask your doctor. Get your free guide to heart health.
Why did you decide to partner with Heart & Stroke?
This cause is so close to me. Heart disease and stroke have touched both sides of my family. At 53, my dad had a massive heart attack. They thought he wasn’t going to make it. But he became the first person to have a new kind of pacemaker implanted. And he lived for 30 more years. It was very groundbreaking and shows what research can do. It can save lives.
With this family history of heart disease, what do you do to maintain a healthy lifestyle?
I don’t live in fear. I believe that moderation is important. I never say I’m never going to eat this or that. For example, I enjoy a glass of wine and drinking in moderation. But I do not smoke and stay away from sugar. I haven’t had a can of pop in 20 years.
"I hope to inspire people to make small change to their lives to help them in the long term."
Stress is a factor I don’t think is always recognized; I try to keep it under control. I think both of my parents were under a lot of stress.
What are you hoping to accomplish with Heart & Stroke?
I want to bring more awareness to the issues of stroke and heart disease, particularly for women. I want to empower women to become advocates for their own health and know not to push it off.
I was shocked to learn that most of the research on stroke and heart disease research is done primarily on men. We need to change this, and we need to start equipping doctors with questions in order to better help women. Bringing awareness is key to making a change.
As well, I hope to inspire people to make small changes to their lives to help them in the long term. I feel a responsibility as a chef and lover of food, who lives around it and for it. That’s my purpose in life – to inspire people and get them connected to their food.