Heart Health Awareness

February is American Heart Month, and women around the country are raising awareness of this critical women’s health issue.

For the past 11 years, the color red has taken on a new significance in the month of February. Sure, you’ll still see the color splashed across Valentine’s Day displays, but it has also become an empowering symbol of the American Heart Association (AHA) Go Red For Women movement.

The public awareness campaign brings women together to raise awareness about heart health and to raise funds for research that will save lives. Jennifer Mieres, MD, FACC, FASNC, FAHA, cardiologist and national physician spokesperson for AHA’s Go Red For Women movement, says the movement, launched in 2004, was created out of necessity: “Cardiovascular disease claimed the lives of nearly 500,000 American women each year, yet women were not paying attention. Many even dismissed it as an older man’s disease.” AHA recognized the need to engage women around the issue. “Go Red For Women was created to dispel the myths and raise awareness of heart disease as the number one killer of women,” Dr. Mieres says. “The campaign is a passionate, emotional social initiative designed to empower women to take charge of their heart health.”

The movement urges women around the country to wear red, speak out about their heart health, and share valuable information about prevention. The effort is critical to ensure that women of all ages are made aware of lifesaving information and resources, Dr. Mieres says. “Heart disease can affect women at any age and starts silently in our twenties, with the buildup of plaque in the arteries that supply the heart with blood and nutrients.” The early onset makes prevention key, she says, adding, “It is important for young women in their twenties and thirties to take simple steps to prevent heart disease.”

Empowering women with these simple steps and encouraging them to act on the information has made a real difference. Dr. Mieres says that, powered by the American Heart Association’s research and science, the campaign has resulted in significant progress. “We have seen a 32 percent decrease in cardiovascular disease deaths in the past 10 years,” she says.

During the past decade, women have fought heart disease individually and together, with AHA’s Go Red For Women movement and other women’s heart health campaigns. Significant advancements have been made, including the development of gender-specific guidelines for prevention and treatment; advocacy efforts resulting in increased funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s WISEWOMAN heart disease and stroke screening program for low-income women; improvement of lifestyle risk factors; improvement in overall heart health among women; identification and targeting of diversity challenges; identification and targeting of gender-specific research challenges; and identification and targeting of gender-specific disparities in care.

Now, as Go Red For Women enters its eleventh year, the campaign is more important than ever. “More than 650,000 women’s lives have been saved, but the fight is far from over,” says Dr. Mieres. “We’ve led the fight to protect women’s hearts through research and education. As we move forward, the more women we mobilize to stop our number one health threat, the more lives we can continue to save.”

 

Become Part of the Movement

In celebration of the Eleventh Annual National Wear Red Day on February 7, 2014, Go Red For Women is asking all women across America to join them in making America Go Red and save women’s lives. Below are some of the ways you can make a difference.

Watch “Just a Little Heart Attack,” directed by and starring Emmy-nominated actress Elizabeth Banks and inspired by the real-life stories of women who have been affected by heart disease.

Visit goredforwomen.org or goredcorazon.org to learn more. You can also visit the Facebook page at facebook.com/goredforwomen.

Participate in the Eleventh Annual National Wear Red Day (February 7, 2014): show your support by wearing red to build awareness and inspire action.

Donate to help fund lifesaving research and educational programs.

Volunteer: contact the local American Heart
Association office to see how you can get involved.

Visit shopheart.org to support education and awareness programs by purchasing Go Red For Women apparel, accessories, and other heart-healthy products.

 

 

 

Eva Gómez, MSN, RN, CPN

Heart Disease Survivor

American Heart Association National Spokesperson

 

As a nurse, Eva Gómez was used to being in hospitals. Perhaps that is why she never expected to be in one as a patient undergoing open heart surgery.
Eva’s doctor discovered that she had a heart murmur when she was in her early twenties, but Eva didn’t let it worry her. Despite having high blood pressure and experiencing shortness of breath while exercising, Eva was in denial that anything might be wrong with her. And like so many other Latina women, she spent her time as a caregiver for her family members rather than thinking about herself. So she simply ignored her heart murmur and did not follow up for 13 years.
When Eva was in her thirties, reality hit. At a routine doctor’s appointment, Eva discovered that her heart murmur was actually caused by a more serious condition. Not only was a leaky valve backing up blood into her heart but Eva also had a heart aneurism. She was shocked, and yet she was still in denial.
“I thought it couldn’t be true,” she says, “because in my mind I am the nurse. I take care of other people. There’s no way that I will be the one who has to be cared for.”
The doctor told Eva otherwise: not only would she need open heart surgery to save her life but it would need to happen soon. Tears streamed down Eva’s face; she finally realized that everything she had tried to deny was true.
“I’ve always been somebody who has direction, who knows and has an idea of what’s going to happen,” Eva says. “At that moment I had no idea. I was lost like a ship at sea.”
The nurse and caregiver found it more difficult than she had imagined to place her life in the hands of fellow medical staff, and she struggled with feeling out of control. It wasn’t until Eva was about to be wheeled into surgery that she finally came to terms with what was happening. Not only did she accept that her life was now in the hands of the doctors and nurses who surrounded her but she understood for the first time the fear and the helplessness that her patients feel.
Among the first things Eva heard after surgery were the sounds of her family around her. Opening her eyes, the first thing she saw was her brother’s face. And at that moment, she knew that she had a second chance at life.
Eva knew she wanted to take full advantage of her blessings by making sure others got that second chance, too. She is on a mission to tell every single woman out there about their risks, but she starts with these five: “My mom, my aunt, my two young cousins, and my best friend—these are women who have given me so much, and I want them to be in my life for a very, very long time,” she says. “And I don’t ever want to see them suffer from heart disease.”
Today Eva takes time to participate and engage in her community, encouraging other women to take care of themselves and see their doctor now—instead of 13 years from now. Eva has truly “gone red.” As she says, “I Go Red for all the wonderful women in my life and all the women of the world.”

 

 

 

Heart Disease Is the Number One Killer of Women

Heart disease causes one in three women’s deaths each year, killing approximately one woman every minute.

An estimated 43 million women in the United States are affected by heart disease.

Ninety percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease.

Since 1984 more women than men have died each year from heart disease, and the gap between men and women’s survival continues to widen.

While one in 30 American women dies from breast cancer each year, heart disease causes one in three deaths among women each year.

Only 43 percent of African-American women and 44 percent of Hispanic women know that heart disease is their greatest health risk, compared with 60 percent of White women.