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OAKDALE, N.Y. (PIX11) — Eight months after her successful heart transplant, Nanci Kurz met on Friday with physicians and her family in an urgent appeal to all women to keep a close watch on their cardiac health.

According to the CDC, despite an increase in awareness over the past decades, only about half (56%) of women recognize that heart disease is the No. 1 killer. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, killing 301,280 women in 2019 — or about one in every five female deaths.

Kurz, a 55-year-old elementary school teacher of autistic children from Oakdale on Long Island, began her journey to heart health four years ago when she suffered a major heart attack on Feb. 18, 2018, and another in March that same year. Surprisingly, she had been very active and didn’t see any warning signs up until that fateful day.

Doctors said her heart was so weak that it was retaining water in her lungs. She was later intubated and received a medical pump to help with her condition. Despite these procedures and other courses of action, her health continued to decline. Finally, doctors said she needed a heart transplant, and within a year she received a new heart.

Now, Kurz encourages women to follow up with their doctors and get regular checkups. In the meantime, she’s doing well and is currently training to take part in Long Island’s half marathon this year. Kurz said she couldn’t have gotten through it without the support of her family and the medical team at North Shore University Hospital.