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Marlene Oliveira

President, Instituto Lado a Lado pela Vida

“It seems that many people are on a collision course with the real possibility of developing cardiovascular diseases, but get distracted in their commitment to taking care of their health, and move on as if everything was just fine. It’s challenging and frightening at the same time.

“I use heart to inspire as many people as possible to take care of their hearts. Our inspiration to live, to be healthy and particularly to take care of our hearts must be continuous and strong.”

My name is Marlene Oliveira and I have a degree in journalism from Pontifícia Universidade Católica (PUC) and in visual arts from Faculdade de Belas Artes. I’m a Social Entrepreneur and President of Instituto Lado a Lado pela Vida, a Civil Society Organization established 12 years ago. For the 2019-2021 triennium, I’m also serving as an Advisor for the Brazilian Health Council (CNS).

As President and Founder of Instituto Lado a Lado pela Vida, dealing with two leading causes of death around the world – cancer and cardiovascular disease – I feel deeply inspired to use my heart for a very noble cause. In 2012 and 2013, I started receiving messages from people who wanted to know more about cardiovascular diseases. However, at that time, the institution was focused only on cancer, so I was curious about such high demand and I decided to do some research.

In 2013, I had access to a report addressing cardiovascular diseases including in Latin America, and I found that, since that time, cardiovascular diseases were regarded as a pandemic. I felt so touched that, in 2014, we established the national campaign ‘Listen to Your Heart – Red September’ to raise population awareness about the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and the importance of taking better care of the heart. Since then, I have been using my heart and my institution to inspire as many people as possible to take care of their hearts, as well as key stakeholders in the healthcare industry to improve public policies addressing cardiovascular diseases diagnosis and treatment in Brazil. Today, we are the only Brazilian institution to focus on both of the main causes of death in Brazil and around the world.

Speaking about the importance of taking care of your heart,  being aware of the risk factors is a huge challenge. In the case of cancer, because this is a disease with strong emotional impact for patients and families, they are compliant with treatment and highly motivated to overcome it. That isn’t true for cardiovascular and chronic diseases. In those cases, they feel they are ok, despite uncontrolled blood sugar levels, high blood pressure, obesity, tobacco use, among other factors. That false sense of security, that everything is fine, leads people to neglect their health, to fail to strictly follow what they have been prescribed, resulting in low treatment compliance rates.

People only become aware of it when they suffer a heart attack, a stroke, or any major complication, but yet the willingness to make lifestyle changes – eating a healthier diet, adding physical exercise into daily lives and managing chronic diseases – are soon left aside, giving way to the same old bad habits. I think it is very hard for people to see a connection among all those factors to the risk of dying from a cardiovascular disease. It seems that many people are on a collision course with the real possibility of developing cardiovascular diseases, but get distracted in their commitment to taking care of their health, and move on as if everything was just fine. It’s challenging and frightening at the same time.

That’s where I take my drive from – and through the Campaign ‘Listen to Your Heart – Red September’ and all the initiatives we implement addressing the topic, we try to encourage and inspire people to turn the table in favour of their own heart health and paying much attention to the signs your body shows over the course of your life.