Elisabeth Röhm on How Heart Disease Devastated Her Family: 'There's No Reason to Not Be CPR Certified'

The Joy actress opens up about losing her mother and aunt to heart disease

Photo: Brandon Wade Brandon Wade / American Heart Association / Edelman

Elisabeth Röhm lost two of the most important people in her life to heart disease, and she has since become a voice to encourage others to be an advocate for their own health.

“My mom [and aunt] passed away [in their 60s from heart disease], and my dad had a heart attack when I was around 10 and he had a triple bypass,” the actress, 42, tells PEOPLE of how her partnership with the American Heart Association since the Red Dress Collection annual fashion show in 2012 came to be.

“Rather than just sit there and do nothing about how much I missed her, I put all of that pain, sorrow and longing for my mother into helping educate and make people aware. I would really like for people to not have to experience what I had to experience,” she continues.

With heart disease being the number one cause of death in the United States, the Joy actress says, “There’s no reason to not be CPR certified.”

“To know CPR is to know how to prevent a tragedy, [so] if you’ve got 70 percent of these cardiac arrests that take place in the home – this could be your child, spouse, parent, friend – the initiative is to make CPR something that’s not really intimidating, that’s something that everybody feels they can learn. Hands-only CPR makes it just very, very easy,” explains Röhm.

To further the nation’s knowledge on the killer disease, the AHA and Anthem Foundation teamed up to place CPR training kiosks in seven airports all around the country. The kiosk looks like a video game, but instead teaches the lifesaving method to the beat of “Stayin’ Alive.”

“I’ve been stuck in so many airports for hours and wandering around, but to be able to go up to a kiosk in some of these major select airports is an amazing way to spend some of your wait,” she says. “It’s a miracle.”

For much more from Elisabeth Röhm on how to protect yourself and loved ones from heart disease, pick up this week s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

With of all the heartache and pain Röhm has had to endure over the years, she has been able to take it and drive it into something that’s positive and can help other people, including her 7-year-old daughter, Easton.

“Easton is aware of the fact that I have lost two very meaningful, pivotal people in my life and that our family is devoted to heart and health, and that’s with any family that’s survived a tragedy,” she says. “It’s a part of our legacy now.”

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