Randy McIlwain, NBCDFW.com
Model and actress Erica Annise warns that how you look may have little to do with how healthy you are.
A successful Dallas model is putting a new face on the issue of heart disease.
Model and actress Erica Annise has been seen over the years in ads for D Magazine, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, JCPenney, Dove, Frito-Lay and Walmart. She's modeled everything from designer chic to Cheetos.
But all the pretty photographs concealed the fact that while she was the picture of health, Annise was very sick.
“I smile through it to get to the end of the day, and then I collapse,” she said.
At age 33, Annise learned she had hereditary heart disease. Even though her diet never included bad foods and she worked out regularly, her heart requires a cocktail of medications and regular blood pressure screenings.
She is now sharing her story and warning others that how you look may have little to do with how healthy you are.
As part of the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women campaign, Annise is promoting regular doctor visits and blood pressure and heart screenings.
“My grandmother passed at 58, my grandfather 59 and my dad at 60, so my goal is not that," she said.
In 2003, Annise thought the grind of a model’s schedule and coping with the recent death of her father was making her ill. But a doctor told her that her blood pressure was 210 over 180.
“He said, I'm surprised you haven't had a heart attack or a stroke by now,” she said.
Now 39, Annise has sustained three minor heart attacks.
At times, her heart will simply empty itself of all blood. The monitoring of her health is now constant.
But her modeling career is still flourishing.
“I'm just glad to be alive,” Annise said.
Go Red for Women is sponsoring a luncheon at the Hilton Anatole Hotel in Dallas on Friday with free health screenings for attendees.