Friday, February 4, is National Wear Red Day, a day when Americans nationwide will take women’s health to heart by wearing red to show their support for women’s heart disease awareness.  February is American Heart Month. How many of us have not had a family member or friend that has fallen victim to heart disease?  Heart Disease is the #1 killer of men and women.  It is the leading cause of death among one in three women. 

The Centers for Disease Control reports that heart disease is the leading cause of death in women age 65 and older.  It is the third leading cause of death in women ages 25-44, and second leading cause of death in women ages 45 – 64.  A woman’s risk of heart disease starts to rise around age 40,  but these messages are very important for younger women, because heart disease develops gradually and can begin at a young age – even in teen years.  Older women have an interest, as well.  It is never too late to take action to prevent and control the risk factors for heart disease.  Remember, most cases of heart disease can be prevented.

Lifestyle factors play a very important role in becoming heart-healthy and staying that way.  Women need to be aware of their family history and take preventative measures against heart disease.  They should talk to their physician and share information regarding family members who have had strokes or heart attacks.  They should have regular checkups, where their doctor can monitor their cholesterol and triglyceride levels. 

Eating foods that are healthy are one of the most important choices we all must make.  We must use portion control and exercise in order to keep our weight at a normal level.  Avoid beverages and foods that are loaded with extra sugars, and choose fat-free, 1% fat, or low-fat dairy products, and lean meat and poultry.   A very wise choice would be to not smoke, but if you do, stop.  Limiting alcohol intake is suggested, also.  Walking just 30 minutes per day for at least 5 days per week is an excellent way to keep our heart healthy.  It isn’t that difficult to increase physical activity at home, work or play by taking a few extra steps or a short walk on our lunch break.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and partner organizations are sponsoring a national campaign called the Heart Truth.  This campaign’s goal is to give women a personal and urgent wakeup call about the risk of heart disease.  They also want to inform women of color that heart disease disproportionately affects them.  African American and Hispanic women in particular have high rates of major risk factors for heart disease, including obesity, physical inactivity, high blood pressure and diabetes, according to NHLBI statistics.  

Symptoms of heart attack can range from sudden and intense pain to slower signs, beginning with mild pain or discomfort.  The key is not to wait too long for medical attention.  Certain signs can be chest discomfort such as pressure, squeezing, or pain, upper body discomfort, shortness of breath, and/or lightheadedness, cold sweat, or nausea.  Call 9-1-1 immediately at the onset of any of these symptoms.

This is an opportunity for all of us – men and women – to unite in this life-saving awareness movement by wearing a favorite red dress, shirt, or tie, even a T-shirt, and possibly convince others to live a more heart-healthy life.  Join The Heart Truth on National Wear Red Day to help spead the critical message that, “Heart Disease Doesn’t Care What You Wear – It’s the #1 Killer of Women.”

Source: NHLBI, Centers for Disease Control