Take charge of your heart

Christine Wayne of Stamford and Kim Salveggi of Yorktown Heights, from left, both survivors and advocates for “Go Red,” at the 2017 Go Red for Women Luncheon. Courtesy American Heart Association.

Nearly all women are at risk for heart attack or stroke.

It’s a staggering statistic that applies to 90 percent of the female population. Yes, 90 percent, though unfortunately only a fraction are actually aware of their vulnerability.

This is just one of the frightening figures that inspired the American Heart Association (AHA) to launch its year-round Go Red for Women Campaign, which is celebrating its 15th year in Westchester County. Thinking of heart illness as the “older man’s disease,” the nation took notice in 2003 when it claimed the lives of 500,000 women. 

Since 2004, when women were first encouraged to “Go Red,” the initiative has helped save more than 670,000 lives through awareness, education and prevention.

That’s enough lovely ladies to fill every seat in Yankee Stadium — 12 times over. 

But the aim is for this number to keep on rising, as, despite these efforts, heart disease remains the leading cause of death in women, taking more lives than all forms of cancer combined. 

“The overall goal of the campaign is to increase the awareness for women in Westchester and throughout the nation about the unique risk factors, and the fact that heart disease is their number one threat,” says Jennifer Miller, senior regional director for AHA in Westchester County.

If women can identify red flags, they can work toward building a healthier lifestyle. Common risk factors include cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, obesity and physical inactivity. However, it’s equally, if not more important, to know the warning signs as well. Aside from associated symptoms, like chest pain, women can experience sweating, pressure, nausea and jaw pain, which may be dismissed as signs of the flu. 

Unawareness of the warning signs allows heart disease to claim one woman’s life every 80 seconds, despite 80 percent of heart disease
being preventable. 

“It’s important to listen to your body and self-advocate,” Miller says.

In order to see where lifestyle changes can be made, the AHA suggests starting with an overview of family history, coupled with the five critical health numbers — total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and body mass index (BMI). And, most of all, to be proactive regarding your own health.

Miller suggests starting simple, like signing up for the Go Red e-newsletter, remembering to wear red Feb. 2 in honor of National Go Red Day, or using the hash tag #GoRed914 or #GoRedCT on social media.

“The best way to get involved is to sign up online about the campaign, to get alerts about tips, health improvements and lifestyle changes that they can make and to share that information with their friends or circle of friends,” she says. “A lot of women get the information themselves, but they don’t share it with others.”

Miller believes there’s strength in numbers when it comes to awareness.

“It helps to hold each other accountable,” she says.

Helping her do just that are Terri and Grace Ferri, co-chairwomen of the Go Red for Women Campaign in Westchester, who plan to use their backgrounds in finance and health care, respectively, to increase the campaign’s reach. Terri — whom we profiled in January 2017 — is the branch manager of the Morgan Stanley Wealth Management Practice in Purchase, while Grace is the vice president of development and marketing for United Hebrew of New Rochelle. 

A highlight of the campaign is the annual “Go Red for Women Luncheon,” which will be held June 1 at the Hilton Westchester in Rye Brook. The event is slated to include two educational breakout sessions that are free and open to the public prior to the ticketed luncheon. 

For more about the Go Red For Women Campaign, visit goredforwomen.org. For more about the American Heart Association, visit heart.org. For tickets to the June 1 luncheon, visit westfairgoredluncheon.heart.org

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