February is Go Red for Women Month

While most Americans might assume that heart disease and heart attacks primarily affect men, the reality is quite different. That is why the American Heart Association (AHA) developed the Go Red for Women campaign in order to educate women about the risks of cardiovascular disease. In 2004, when the campaign was inaugurated, cardiovascular disease claimed the lives of 500,000 women each year, but many women have not grasped the enormity of this disease.

Each February the AHA mobilizes to encourage awareness regarding women and heart disease and also challenges them to take action to reduce personal risk. In 2010, the AHA set a strategic goal of reducing death and disability from cardiovascular disease and strokes by 20 percent while improving the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent by the year 2020.

So why does the Go Red for Women campaign focus its efforts solely on women?  Historically, men have been the subjects of research done to understand heart disease and stroke, which has been the primary basis for treatment guidelines and programs. This oversight has led to an oversimplified, distorted view of heart disease and risk — to the detriment of women.

Because women have been largely ignored as a specific group, awareness of their risk of this largely preventable disease has suffered. Only 55 percent of women realize heart disease is their number-one killer and less than half know what are considered healthy levels for cardiovascular risk factors, such as blood pressure and cholesterol.

The AHA wants women to be aware of which risk factors they can and cannot control. Uncontrollable risk factors include age, gender, and family history or race. Factors that can be controlled include:

  • Cholesterol
  • Blood pressure
  • Physical activity
  • Stress
  • Alcohol & illegal drug use

To learn more, visit The American Heart Association at www.heart.org 

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