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Wear Red for Women’s Heart Health

National Wear Red Day, which takes place on Friday, February 2, 2018, is an opportunity for all people to raise awareness for women’s heart health. February is also American Heart Month sponsored by the American Heart Association.

Reasons Behind the Go Red Awareness Campaign

Every 80 seconds in the United States, a woman dies of cardiovascular disease or a heart attack. Sadly, the American Heart Association estimates that 80 percent of these deaths could have been prevented through lifestyle changes and education. The campaign urges medical researchers to invest more time and resources in women’s heart health issues as well as for doctors to take faster, more decisive actions when a woman does experience heart-related symptoms.

The American Heart Association Urges All Women to Know Their Numbers

Be sure to make heart-healthy choices, including not smoking, getting a moderate amount of exercise, eating a healthy and well-balanced diet, and striving for a healthy body weight. It’s also important that you know the following numbers about yourself:

  • Blood pressure
  • Blood sugar
  • Body mass index (BMI)
  • HDL cholesterol, also known as good cholesterol
  • Total cholesterol

By knowing these numbers, you and your primary care provider can determine if you have a heightened risk for developing heart disease. If so, taking a proactive approach to reducing your risks can literally save your life.

National Wear Red Day History

The history of this day and awareness campaign goes back to February of 2003. It came about due to the frustration of women not knowing vital information concerning the health of their hearts. Although heart disease is the leading cause of death in American women, many continue to believe that it’s only a disease for men. Along with the National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute (NHBLI), the American Heart Association (AHA) created Wear Red Day to highlight the fact that 500,000 women die of a heart-related problem every year.

The reason the two organizations teamed up and chose red to represent the day is that red is the color of our hearts. It’s also a powerful color that tends to attract a lot of attention. In the 15 years since the campaign launched, the NHLBI and AHA have reported the following statistics that show great progress in the fight against female heart disease:

  • One-third of American women have lost weight
  • Approximately half of all women have increased how much they exercise as well as the intensity
  • A full 90 percent of women report making at least one change in their behavior that positively impacts heart health
  • One-third of women spoke to their primary care provider or a cardiologist about creating a healthy heart plan
  • Sixty percent of women have made healthy diet changes
  • Women’s deaths from heart disease have gone down by 30 percent since 2013
  • Every day, 300 fewer women die from either heart disease or stroke
  • Forty percent of women requested a check of their cholesterol level

Despite these advances, one woman in three in the United States dies of heart disease, heart attack, or stroke every year. National Wear Red Day hopes to change that.

Risks and Symptoms of Heart Disease in Women

Some risk factors for heart disease, such as obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, typically affect men and women the same. However, other factors are either unique to women or play a much larger role than they do for men. These include:

  • Broken heart syndrome: This doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with love, although it can if a romantic relationship becomes extremely stressful. Broken heart syndrome occurs when stress causes severe heart muscle failure, even though the condition is temporary. This condition, which happens more often after menopause, also goes by the names stress cardiomyopathy, apical ballooning syndrome, or takotsubo cardiomyopathy.
  • Complications of pregnancy
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Inactivity
  • Lupus
  • Menopause
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Smoking
  • Stress

It’s also important to note that women can develop heart disease at any age. At Western Maryland Health System (WMHS), we encourage you to pay special attention to your heart disease or heart attack risks if you have a family history of heart disease or you’re over age 65.

Women Can Experience Unique Heart Attack Symptoms

Although the most common symptom of a heart attack for both men and women is pain or pressure in the chest, women experience it less often than men do. It can also be less severe, leading women to believe they’re not having a heart attack when they really are. In fact, women can have no chest pain and still have a heart attack. The following symptoms of a heart attack are significantly more common in women than in men:

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pain in one or both arms, the abdomen, upper back, jaw, shoulder, or neck
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Unusual fatigue

These symptoms often occur when women are resting or sleeping. Mental stress is a common trigger. Unfortunately, women tend to report to emergency rooms after sustaining substantial damage to their heart because they don’t recognize the above symptoms as a heart attack.

WMHS encourages all women to know their risks and their numbers as well as take steps to improve their heart health. Feel free to reach out to your primary care provider for additional heart-healthy tips.

Please note, the information provided throughout this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and video, on or available through this website is for general information purposes only. If you are experiencing relating symptoms, please visit your doctor or call 9-1-1 in an emergency.