Laila Ali: “I Never Want To Fail Myself”

Laila Ali

Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images

A decade removed from her championship boxing career, Laila Ali is back in the ring. Only now she’s using her passion and dedication to take on a much more formidable foe: heart disease.

Just as she did in her boxing career – and just as her legendary father Muhammad Ali did for decades – Ali has been racking up the victories. She’s helped numerous women understand that heart disease is their deadliest opponent and encouraged them to embrace better health.

“So many women are suffering from heart disease and heart problems and a lot of it is because of lifestyle choices,” said Ali, now a TV personality, cookbook author and health advocate.

More than one in three women live with some form of cardiovascular disease, which includes heart attack, high blood pressure and stroke. But studies show 80 percent of cardiovascular disease is preventable.

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Ali is among a handful of advocates, nurses and physicians honored Tuesday night (Feb. 7) at the 14th annual Red Dress Awards hosted by Woman’s Day in New York City. Actress Jane Lynch will host the awards, which will feature award-winning musician Melissa Etheridge.

“In everything she does, Laila embodies the spirit of a true champion,” said American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown. “She is an inspiration to all women, and a mighty force for all of us in the fight against heart disease.”

Ali encourages many women to start slowly. Just as many boxers start their fights slowly by feeling out their opponents in the early rounds, women should know they can’t just come out swinging as hard as they can.

Ali recommends starting by setting simple goals, even if it’s exercising 10 minutes a day or eating a salad a day. “You’re not going to change and be perfect overnight,” she said.

“I try to focus on living a healthy lifestyle to take care of everything,” Ali said. “I don’t think to myself, ‘I want to make sure my heart is healthy so I’m going to work out.’ I just think I’m going to work out because it has so many benefits, from physical to mental, spiritual.

“Everybody has a different motivation. Getting sick because I didn’t take care of myself is what I’m afraid of. I never want to fail myself.”