FRANKFORT, Ky. (Feb. 14, 2005) -- Governor Ernie Fletcher has proclaimed the month of February as American Heart Month and Feb. 15th as Go Red for Women Day in Kentucky to help raise awareness that heart disease is the number one killer and the leading cause of disability in women.
“We want people around the Commonwealth to wear red this month to symbolize their commitment to take charge of their heart health and live longer, stronger lives,” said First Lady Glenna Fletcher. “We want women to be aware of the lifestyle changes that can keep them healthy for life.”
Go Red for Women Day is an opportunity to highlight the ways in which heart disease affects women. Since 1984, cardiovascular disease has taken the lives of more women than men every year in the United States. Cardiovascular disease, including stroke, claims more women's lives than the next seven causes of death combined - nearly 500,000 a year. One in 2.5 women will die of heart disease or stroke in the U.S. Additionally, about 40,000 more women than men have a stroke each year, our nation’s third leading cause of death and number one cause of permanent, long-term disability.
Sarah Wilding, Chief Nurse at the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH), said, “Most women do not realize that cardiovascular disease is the greatest threat to their health. One of the enduring half-truths about cardiovascular disease is that heart disease is a man’s disease. Cardiovascular diseases are devastating to women, too.”
In 2001, 15,000 Kentuckians died as a result of cardiovascular disease; 8,000 were women. In 2002, the trend continued to show women in Kentucky dying at a higher rate than men due to cardiovascular disease with more than 11,500 total deaths. Nearly 6,000 were women.
The Department for Public Health has joined the American Heart Association’s initiative to draw attention to the vital issue of women’s heart health through the Go Red for Women campaign. Citizens can go red for women and heart disease by:
- Reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease by quitting smoking, getting physically active and eating healthy foods;
- Knowing and tracking your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar numbers;
- Scheduling a checkup with your healthcare professional each year on your birthday; and
- Following your healthcare professional’s recommendations, including taking prescribed medications.
DPH encourages everyone to know the warning signs of heart disease and stroke and the importance of calling 9-1-1 immediately if symptoms are present. Women may present with less typical heart attack symptoms such as arm or shoulder pain; jaw, neck or throat pain; or pain in the back, beneath the breastbone or in the pit of the stomach.
The most common signs of a heart attack are: chest discomfort in the center of the chest that feels like pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain; discomfort in other areas of the upper body; pain in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach; shortness of breath prior to or along with chest discomfort; and other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
Signs of a stroke are: sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination; sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding; sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body; and sudden, severe headache with no known cause.
“Recognition of these warning signs and calling 911 for treatment are crucial steps in minimizing damage to your heart and brain,” said Mrs. Fletcher.
According to a 2004 report on the status of cardiovascular disease in the Commonwealth, “Close to the Heart of Kentucky,” only about one third of Kentucky adults can identify all of the signs of a heart attack and would respond by calling 911 and only four out of ten know all of the stroke signs and would respond appropriately.
For more information about cardiovascular disease, call DPH’s Heart Disease and Stroke Program at (502) 564-7996 or visit <http://chfs.ky.gov/dph/cvd.htm>.