To your health: Heart disease not just a man's problem

Saturday, April 10, 2010

In this country, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Unfortunately, many women in this country think heart disease is a man's disease. Numerous studies have found that women are more concerned about breast cancer than heart disease. However, women are more likely to die from heart disease than they are from any type of cancer. Each year, more than half a million women suffer heart attacks. Of these women, 100,000 are under the age of 65 and more than 30,000 of these are under 55.

Consequently, in 2004, the American Heart Association (AHA) started a national campaign called Go Red for Women. The movement is designed to make women more aware of their risk for heart disease and to take action to reduce that risk. Go Red for Women has been very successful and millions of people across the country have participated. The AHA has used the color red and the red dress icon to bring more attention to the issues surrounding women and heart disease. Go Red for Women empowers women with the knowledge and tools needed to take positive action to reduce their risks of heart disease and stroke and protect their health.

The Go Red for Women movement gives women tips and information on healthy eating, exercise and risk factor reduction, such as smoking cessation, weight maintenance, blood pressure control and blood cholesterol management. This information is available on the Go Red for Women website at www.goredforwomen.org. A useful interactive feature called the Go Red Heart Check Up allows women to assess their heart health.

Go Red luncheons are coordinated in various communities across the country. The luncheons feature activities and topics to educate women about cardiovascular disease, risk factors and their heart health. Go Red for Women luncheons also feature local guest speakers and medical experts. There is no Go Red for Women Luncheon in Cape Girardeau, but on April 9, Saint Francis Medical Center will sponsor the third annual Heart to Heart Luncheon at the Osage Community Centre. Heart to Heart is provided by Saint Francis and members of the community who formerly participated on the Go Red for Women committee through the American Heart Association. The medical center and the committee members want to keep the momentum of heart disease education going strong to further benefit women in this region. Last year, more than 200 local women and a few men gathered to take the first step toward a healthier lifestyle. The 2010 event will feature health screenings, educational exhibits, door prizes and a delicious, heart-healthy meal catered by Ray's of Kelso, along with the keynote presentation, "A Merry Heart is Really Good Medicine," by Kathleen Passanisi, an internationally recognized humorist. Doors open at 11 a.m. for educational exhibits and screenings and the lunch and keynote presentation will begin at noon. Tickets are available at Fitness Plus or by calling (573) 331-5327.

The federal government is also trying to focus attention on women and heart disease. It has initiated an awareness campaign called The Heart Truth. Each year in February, a Friday is designated as National Wear Red Day. This is a day when Americans nationwide are encouraged to take women's health to heart by wearing red to show their support for women's heart disease awareness. Everyone can join The Heart Truth on National Wear Red Day to help spread the critical message that "Heart Disease Doesn't Care What You Wear: It's the #1 Killer of Women." Everyone can participate in the national movement by wearing their favorite red dress, skirt, shirt, blouse, tie, scarf, hat or any other clothing item. More information about The Heart Truth can be found at www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/hearttruth/.

Dr. Jeremy Barnes is with the Department of Health, Human Performance and Recreation at Southeast Missouri State University.

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