Rise Above Heart Failure: Rita Owens' Story

We are deeply saddened by the recent passing of Rita Owens, an incredibly passionate and inspirational heart failure ambassador. The HF community will be forever grateful to Ms. Owens for her contributions, and her legacy as an educator will live on. We are honored to have worked with Ms. Owens and her daughter, Queen Latifah, on the Rise Above HF campaign, and we thank them for serving as inspirational leaders.

Queen and Rita on couch

Rita Owens knew that something was wrong, she just didn’t know what it was. As a mom and an energetic art teacher, she was charged with running programs and overseeing the education and care of her students, as well as her own children. Suddenly she began feeling constantly fatigued, regardless of the number of hours she slept at night – and one day, she lost consciousness at school. After visits to many physicians and specialists, eventually she was diagnosed with heart failure.

Ms. Owens had lived a healthy life, and was shocked to learn she had heart failure. She says, “We take our hearts for granted.” Her daughter, Queen Latifah, also couldn’t believe the diagnosis – her mother had always been so active and energetic, and had touched so many lives through her work.

With the support of her entire family, Ms. Owens decided to tackle heart failure head-on. She learned as much as she could about ways to manage the condition, because a better understanding helped to subside the fear – and helped her and her family figure out how to be stronger and how to make life better with heart failure. She limits sodium and sugar in her diet, weighs herself each morning to check for any sudden fluid gain or loss, and takes diligent notes about her symptoms and shares them with her doctor.

Above all, Ms. Owens remains positive and hopeful, and credits a strong family support system with helping her manage her heart failure. She has stopped considering heart failure a disease that would limit her abilities, but a challenge that could be overcome by a “family movement.” She says, “You have to remain positive…my positive attitude has been my source of strength.” Queen in particular has been an integral part of providing support and ensuring she actively manages her heart failure. Ms. Owens says, “It’s a big journey that my daughter and our whole family have undertaken, and I’m grateful for that.”

Ms. Owens wants everyone to know that if you have heart failure, you can make small changes to better care for yourself. She says, “I have too much to live for. My family, my students, my friends – they’re my reason for living a healthier, longer life. Together, we’re rising above heart failure.”

RAHF logoShe and her daughter Queen have joined the American Heart Association’s Rise Above Heart Failure movement to spread the word about heart failure and to help others understand the signs and symptoms of the condition, and how to manage it. Rise Above Heart Failure is nationally supported by Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation and was created in collaboration with experts across the heart failure community. The American Heart Association plans to partner across the community to change the way heart failure impacts the country by:

  • Increasing awareness of heart failure, its symptoms and treatments,
  • Increasing understanding and dialogue about heart failure,
  • Inspiring people with heart failure to take a more active role in their care,
  • Encouraging people to make small changes that can lead to healthier lifestyles and
  • Bringing together an alliance of influential organizations to collectively support a goal of reducing heart failure hospitalization rates by 10% and increasing awareness and understanding of HF by 10% by 2020.

Rita shares her tips on Rising Above Heart Failure (PDF)

Read more inspiring stories

Heart Insight QL mag cover

Big Heart Problem In the first of a four-part series on heart failure, we investigate what it is, what causes it and what’s the prognosis.

The Unrelaxing Heart The second installment explains heart failure with muscle intact. Queen Latifah and her mom, Rita, share their personal experience with Rita’s own heart failure diagnosis.

The Ins and Outs of Hospitalization Heart failure patients are often hospitalized. This article looks at managing self-care to minimize just how often re-hospitalizations happen.

Shared Decision Making for Advanced HF When HF progresses to an advanced stage, there are many decisions to be made. Here we delve into the importance of shared decision making.