'GO RED FOR WOMEN' Do your heart good
By TRACEY D'ASTOLFO
Heart disease primarily afflicts men, right?
Wrong. Studies show that more women than men die of the disease. In fact, heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women.
With that in mind, the American Heart Association has designated Friday as a national day to "Go Red For Women."
The group is asking women to wear red that day to raise awareness of the magnitude of heart disease among them.
The campaign is meant to encourage women to educate themselves about heart disease and stroke and learn how to reduce their risks.
"We need a bold color like red to draw attention to heart disease, which is women's greatest health threat," said Cheryl Morrow-White, M.D., president of the Ohio Valley chapter of the AHA. "Red symbolizes women's power to take control of their health and passion for the women whose lives have been affected."
In 2002, President Bush declared the month of February "American Heart Month," to alert the country to the ongoing fight against cardiovascular disease.
Cardiovascular kills more women than the next seven causes of death combined, including all forms of cancer. The AHA reports that one woman in 29 dies of breast cancer but one in 2.4 dies of cardiovascular disease. Heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases claim the lives of more than half a million women each year-- about a death a minute.
The AHA lists the four most common types of cardiovascular disease as high blood pressure, coronary heart disease (including heart attack and angina pectoris or chest pain), stroke and rheumatic fever/rheumatic heart disease.
Heart disease is particularly deadly to women, studies show, because women tend to neglect their own health needs, are likely to misinterpret the symptoms of heart disease and are not aware of their level of risk.
A recent AHA survey said that 90 percent of women feel they have power over their health, but only 27 percent say their health is a top priority.
"We want to make a passionate statement for women, stressing that they really need to make changes and recognize the fact that although it's still considered a men's disease, more women die of heart disease than men," said Elaine Welsh, communications director of the Youngstown branch of the AHA.
Heart disease affects one in nine women over the age of 45. By the age of 65, heart disease affects one in three women. Yet a 1995 Gallup Survey revealed that four out of five women are still unaware that heart disease is their leading cause of death.
The survey, which used a national sample of 505 women between the ages of 45 and 75, also indicated that only half of women know that menopause increases a woman's risk for heart disease, 83 percent of women felt at least moderately informed about heart disease in women and 70 percent of women believe heart attack warning signs are the same for women as they are for men.
Symptoms of heart disease in women are sometimes not recognized because they are different than men's. Women's symptoms can include fatigue, dizziness, palpitations or feeling short of breath, and they may not even experience chest pain. Women may not think they are at risk and as a result may not see their doctor even when symptoms of heart disease become obvious.
Statistics also show that 38 percent of women die in the first year after a heart attack as opposed to 25 percent of men. This may be because the majority of standard treatments of heart disease used are based on research done in men.
Recognizing the dangers of heart disease in women is a fairly recent development. In 1991, studies showed that more women than men had died from cardiovascular disease since 1984.
"Our focus is to empower women to reduce their risk of heart disease," said Morrow-White. "'The Go Red For Women' campaign outlines a plan to help women take action against heart disease and make heart disease prevention a part of their life, because your heart is your life."
The campaign is sponsored nationally by Macy's, which is selling special red merchandise to benefit the American Heart Association. Other companies such as Swarovski Crystal, Pantene, OPI Products, St. John Knits, Angel Wreaths, Le Mystere, Walgreens and Ross Dress for Less are donating part of the revenue from the sale of designated items to the AHA. For details, go to www.americanheart.org.