Today is not only Groundhog Day, but National Wear Red Day. On the first Friday in February each year, female celebrities strut the runway wearing red outfits provided by some of the biggest designers in the US. The dresses, and ones loaned by the living First Ladies, become travelling exhibits shown all over the country, and local women are designated as Red Dress Heroines by regional groups.
So what's all this about? Women's heart health. While I'll be the first to agree that breast cancer is a nasty and scary thing to experience, with modern preventative measures and treatments it's actually only the fifth-highest cause of women's deaths, killing roughly 42,000 women a year. Heart disease is #1, at 356,000 deaths/year, a factor of eight greater than breast cancer. One in three women who die each year do so of heart disease.
Nearly two-thirds of women who have heart attacks don't make a full recovery. Nearly two-thirds of women who die suddenly of heart attacks had no previous symptoms.
In addition, both lay and medical personnel continue to perceive women as less likely to suffer from heart disease than men. A 2005 research project found that primary care physicians, OB/Gyns, and cardiologists rated intermediate-risk women as significantly less at risk than men with identical profiles. The same study found that fewer than one in five of the doctors (regardless of specialty) knew that heart disease kills more women than men every year.
Many studies have shown that, since they are seen as at less risk, women don't get the same treatment recommendations as men, either. Nor, unfortunately, do they ask for them. Men are scared of heart disease, so they ask. Women think they're immune – and they aren't.
Risk factors for heart disease include smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, overweight/obesity, physical inactivity, diabetes, family history (yes, on your father's side, too!), and age (for women, over 55).
The good news is that there are things you can do. Eating right, exercising, monitoring your cholesterol numbers (do you even know your cholesterol numbers, or which one is 'good' and which 'bad'?), controlling your blood pressure, not taking hormone replacement therapy, drinking only in moderation, speaking up to your physician and asking for specific help if you think you need it, can reduce your risk by as much as 82 per cent.
For more information, you can go to:
And there is a women's heart health handbook at:
My mother spent most of December and a good portion of January in the hospital with cardiac problems. While the pacemaker has made a big difference, it wasn't a fun experience for anyone, and the damage that has been done will never completely heal.
And, yes, I'm wearing red today.