Heart Smart

Concordian Malissa Wood writes a book on heart health.


It’s Tuesday! Not normally a day that requires celebrating, but today we’re just two days away from my all-time favorite holiday, a day that requires no more than just showing up and eating. Well, as long as you’re not the person cooking, that is. If you ARE the person cooking, it might be a little scary to know that there’s only two days left before you have to cook a big meal with lots of food for many people. No pressure!

But before we get to the big day of eating and football and hanging with – hopefully – people you love, there’s cool stuff to tell you about. I think I’ve told you that one of the perks of having this job is having a license to talk to people about who they are and what they do, and then letting everyone else know about some of the amazing, interesting, and talented people who live here in Concord.

Malissa Wood is one such person. She has written a book, which is coming out Dec. 27, about how to take good care of your heart. It’s called “Smart at Heart,” and it’s geared toward helping women aged 40-60 understand and prevent heart disease.

Malissa knows something about hearts, seeing as she’s a cardiologist. Actually, she’s the co-director of the Corrigan Women’s Heart Health Program at Mass General Hospital, which means she’s something of a specialist in this area, so it’s not surprising that Harvard Health Publications asked her to write this book.

Harvard Health first heard about Malissa through her research project in Revere, called HAPPY (Heart Awareness and Primary Prevention in Your neighborhood) Heart. This project brings together women in the local community with health challenges and sets about improving their emotional and physical health by educating them, giving them peer support, providing them with a team of health coaches, and having them participate in mind-body therapies. The ultimate goal of all of this is to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease.

But more than that, this is a group of women who don’t have easy access to the kind of resources offered by MGH. They may only be over the bridge from the world-class hospital, but it’s a world away. So Malissa brings the resources to them.

This whole life approach to health care, and giving patients the tools to take better care of themselves, has been Malissa’s approach her entire career. She knows that some people find this holistic approach “fringe-y” and weird, but she says, “If you want your car to run really well, are you just going to focus on the kind of oil you use? Or the whole engine?” Makes total sense to me.

Malissa wrote the book “Smart at Heart” to get the kind of information she is imparting in her program out to the population at large. She says this is not a book designed to make money, but an important book that needed to be written. In fact, she’s hoping to get some speaking engagements so she can give money back to the program. The book was co-written with a writer from Harvard Health, Dimity McDowell, who came out to Revere and interviewed the women in the group and worked with Malissa to shape the final outcome.

All of this is impressive enough, but Malissa is also the mother to four children – she shares joint custody with her ex-husband – as well as a breast cancer survivor. I wanted to ask her if she saves babies from burning buildings in her spare time. Oh, and she is really, really nice to boot.

Malissa is hoping that the Concord Bookshop will get some copies of the book so she can get out and promote it here in town. I’m hoping she does. As women, we tend to take care of others – this is a chance to take care of ourselves, so we’re in good enough health to take care of others. And that’s a good thing.


Do you have something you would like to share? Contact me at stefanieac@comcast.net or Maureen at mcb23@comcast.net, and we will be happy to help you spread the good news.


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