NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 11: (L-R) Bethanny Frankel, Pauley Perrette, Estelle, Robin Roberts, Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Valerie Harper attend backstage during The Heart Truth Red Dress Collection Fall 2010 during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Bryant Park on February 11, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Heart Truth)
Think that little black dress was the supposed closet staple all women should have? Think again, fashionistas. The new “it” color is red, and it’s in celebration of National Wear Red Day.
In 2002, The Heart Truth, a national awareness campaign for women about heart disease, launched its eye-catching logo of a little red dress to remind people, “Heart Disease Doesn’t Care What You Wear -- It’s the #1 Killer of Women.”
Instead, here’s a stark statistic: one in four women in the United States will die from heart disease, and that’s in comparison to the one in 30 who will die from breast cancer. And, according to Susan B. Shurin, M.D.
, acting director of the NHLBI
, more women die of heart disease than all types of cancer combined.
“One in three 40-year-old women will have a heart attack or chest pains sometime in their lifetime,” said Dr. Shurin
. “Even though women are more aware of heart disease, one-third of women still underestimate their personal risk and don’t take steps to lower that risk.”
In medical speak, heart disease occurs when arteries in the heart become blocked, preventing oxygen and vital nutrients from traveling to the heart. Once diagnosed, those with the disease will have it for the rest of their lives.
“Your heart, like many other tissues, repairs damage with scarring. Even minimal damage creates small scars. By the time heart disease is diagnosed, there is significant damage which cannot be repaired with [the] normal, functioning heart muscle,” said Dr. Shurin
The Heart Truth emphasizes that women, who are between the ages of 40 and 60, are at increased risk. Though the disease primarily affects middle-aged women, it can also develop in the younger age bracket of teenagers as well.
Risk factors include being of a certain ethnicity, primarily that of African American or Hispanic descent. Additional factors, regardless of race, include having high blood pressure and cholesterol, smoking, being obese or being over the age of 55.
Think you have nothing to worry about, because you’re a smoker -- but an athletically inclined, nutritionally-sound smoker? Unfortunately, that's not the case: having just one risk of heart disease increases your likelihood of developing the condition by twofold, or even more.
“Each of the risk factors -- high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, overweight [and] obesity, physical inactivity and smoking -- causes damage in its own way, so multiple risk factors greatly increase damage,” stated Dr. Shurin. “Starting in their twenties, a majority of women have one or more of the major heart disease risk factors, and each decade sees an increase in the numbers of risk factors.”
Awareness of the disease, led in part by the efforts of The Heart Truth
, is continually increasing. What specific results has the campaign seen? According to surveys like the “Awareness of Heart Disease as the #1 Killer Drives Women to Action,”
women who heard about The Heart Truth
were more likely than others to take at least one measure to reduce threat of the disease.
Ways to lower risk include quitting smoking, eating a balanced diet, losing weight if needed and maintaining a physically active lifestyle. Together, these actions can lower a woman’s chance of heart disease by more than 82 percent.
Finally, what’s the message being spread by those decked in red today? Dr. Shurin sums it up best: "Most of the risks involve simple things you can control. Take action and protect your heart health for the sake of those you love.”
To get involved, check out these local events:
DC Champions -- Noche de Corazones (Night of Hearts)
February 4 from 6:30-10 p.m.
5700 Berwyn Road, Berwyn Heights, Md. 20740
The event will include a fashion show, dinner and Zumba dance. Guests are asked to wear red and the D.C. Champions/promoters will deliver a presentation on The Heart Truth.
St. Agnes Hospital -- Red Dress Sunday
Reception: 8:15-8:45 a.m.
Service: 9-10 a.m.
Health Fair: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. (light lunch included)
Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church
6000 Radecke Avenue
Baltimore, Md. 21206
Church members and guests will learn about the risk factors of heart disease and receive health information materials. There are 126 churches participating in the Red Dress Sunday. The Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church is featured as the “media church” this year and will have guest speakers such as the Baltimore City Mayor (Stephanie Rawlings-Blake). Immediately following the service, there will be a health fair including blood pressure screening, cholesterol screening, blood sugar screening and pulmonary function testing, among others.
National Wear Red Day activities for everyone:
Rally to Wear Red and Protect Your Heart
This year, the campaign is encouraging individuals to rally those in their community, work or places of worship to wear red and snap a picture and upload the picture onto The Heart Truth campaign’s Facebook page. For more information, please visit The Heart Truth Facebook page.
Follow The Heart Truth on Twitter and join in the Twitter Party @TheHeartTruth for heart healthy tips, resources and new research. Join the Twitter Party on February 4, from 3-4 p.m. EST, to celebrate National Wear Red Day.