At a time when only one in five women know heart disease is their greatest health threat, the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women campaign message is as important now as it was when the campaign first started ten years ago.
“So many women still consider heart disease a man‘s disease,” said Diane Kemp, the executive director of the American Heart Association’s Midwest Affiliate. “We have a long way to go, and so much more information we have to get out.”
February Go Red For Women events include launching a Porter County “Go Red” campaign Feb. 5 from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the Harre Hall on the Valparaiso University campus. The event will include a heart-healthy breakfast, an awareness presentation and a keynote speaker.
February 7 is national Go Red for Women Day, Kemp said, and businesses and community organizations will be supporting the campaign.
“You’ll see various signs and posters throughout Lake and Porter county municipalities and businesses, and a portion of Lincoln Way in Porter County will have our banners,” she said. “We’re also reaching out to media outlets around the country.”
On Feb. 12, LaPorte County will launch their own initiative at the Pottawattomie Country Club, and the organization is also working with The Methodist Hospitals throughout Northwest Indiana to provide heart screenings, Kemp said.
Congenital heart defects are the number one birth defect for children, and on May 17, there will be the “Our Heart of Gold” fundraising event, which is a gala to celebrate funding for cardiovascular research for children. May 29th, there will be a Go Red For Women educational symposium.
In September, there will be a Heart Walk Sept. 13 in Lake County and Sept. 29 in Porter County, Kemp said.
The Go Red For Women campaign is designed to empower women to learn what the risks for heart disease and visit their doctors. They can go to the www.goredforwomen.org website, or visit www.heart.org , Kemp said, to help them learn the facts and take assessments.
Kemp said it is important to note that the symptoms for heart disease in women can be very different from symptoms in men. For example, symptoms for women include jaw line pain and neck and back pain, and aren’t just pressure in the chest and a pain or numbness in the arm.
“The symptoms are often misunderstood,” Kemp said. “They can be confused with stress-related symptoms, when stress is not the case.”
Since 1984, Kemp said, more women than man have died of heart disease. Heart disease kills one woman every 60 seconds, and that doesn’t have to happen, Kemp said.
“80 percent of heart disease is preventable by healthy lifestyle choices,” she said. “Make sure your numbers are where they need to be. The three main risk factors are cholesterol, blood pressure and BMI (Body Mass Index).”
It is also important to not smoke and to know your hereditary risks, she said.
Heart attacks are much harder on women’s bodies than men’s, Kemp said, because women’s bodies are smaller, their hormones work and react differently and have a smaller heart and overall cardiovascular system.
“We have to take action quickly, and reduce our risk, because often, for women the first incident is fatal,” she said.
In talking with hundreds of volunteers for the American Heart Association across the region, Kemp said one theme is heard repeatedly from survivors.
“They said, they just knew something wasn’t right. But they acted, and that’s what saved their lives,” she said. “If we are more aware of our bodies and understand when we’re feeling something we shouldn’t be feeling, we can respond quickly. The fact they responded quickly is what allowed them to have an incident on Wednesday and be back in the office by Monday.”
Since 1929, the American Heart Association has been the leader in funding for cardiovascular research, second only to funding from the federal government. The organization has funded research that has helped make critical advances, including with bypass surgeries, valve replacement and stents.
“Where we are today, in 2014, we have made amazing advancements for cardiovascular patients,” she said. “But we are at the tip for where we will be in the next decade. It’s important to continue the quest for research and education for this cause. We’re too close to being steps closer to a potential cure.”