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Each year on the first Friday in February, Americans nationwide take women’s health to heart by wearing red to show their support for women’s heart disease awareness.

On National Wear Red Day, women and men across the nation sport red apparel as a show of unity in the national movement to give women a personal and urgent wake-up call about their risk of heart disease. Although significant progress has been made in increasing the awareness in women from 34 percent in 2000 to 57 percent in 2006, there is more that needs to be done to help women understand their personal risk of developing heart disease.

The centerpiece of the campaign, for women, is the red dress. But you might be asking yourself, “Why a red dress?” According to The Heart Truth, a national awareness campaign about heart disease, a simple red dress works as a visual red alert to get the message heard loud and clear: “Heart disease doesn’t care what you wear. It’s the No. 1 killer of women.”

According to the American Heart Association heart disease kills approximately one woman every minute. Some additional statistics include:

zx More women die of heart disease than the next four causes of death combined, including all forms of cancer.

zx  One in three American women die of heart disease, compared to one in 30 women who die of breast cancer.

zx Ninety percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease.

zx Eighty percent of cardiac events in women may be prevented if they make the right choices for their hearts, involving diet, exercise and abstinence from smoking.

While heart disease is an equal opportunity affliction, gender differences do exist. According to Dr. Nanette Wenger of Emory University Medical School, more  250,000 women die of heart disease each year. This means that more women than men now die annually of heart disease. Wenger says, “While women tend to most fear cancer, particularly breast cancer, twice as many females die each year of heart and blood vessel disease as all forms of cancer combined.”

Heart attack symptoms

Every 36 seconds, someone dies from heart disease, America’s No. 1 killer. Be aware of the symptoms of a heart attack.  Common symptoms include:

zx Chest pain, particularly on the left side (sometimes the entire chest, including the right side, is affected as well.)

zx Dull, aching or toothache-like pain

zx Pain radiating to the left arm, right arm, neck or back

zx Pressure, like something big is sitting on your chest

zx A squeezing sensation, like someone is squeezing your chest

zx Nausea

zx Vomiting

zx Profuse sweating

zx Dizziness

zx Shortness of breath

If you have any of these symptoms, don’t wait more than five minutes before calling for help. Dial 911 and get to a hospital right away.

You should also talk to your doctor, nurse or other health care professional about heart health risk factors including cholesterol, triglycerides, diabetes, smoking, blood pressure and obesity. You can also learn about your risk for heart attack and stroke by taking the Go Red Heart Checkup at www.goredforwomen.org.

On the web:

Give 5 women you care about the power to save their lives at GoRedForWomen.org.

Sources:

The American Heart Association and The Heart Truth.

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