Red hearts and red roses are common symbols of February, the month Americans celebrate Valentine's Day. But more Americans are seeing red this month for a very different reason: it's part of the Go Red Movement to support the fight against heart disease, the nation's number one killer of women.
On Friday, February 3, cardiologist Nieca Goldberg wore an elegant red suit. And, she says, she was noticed. "I spent most of the day in New York City, but then I had to go to North Carolina. When I got to the airport and went through Security," she recalls, "a man in Security said, 'You must like red because you are wearing a red sweater in your passport photo and you are wearing a red suit today.'"
Dr. Goldberg says her red suit was a statement that she was joining the American Heart Association's Go Red Day, observed the first Friday of February. "It was from coast to coast," she says. "There were thousands of women across the United States going red. Not only women were going red, but cities were going red: Seattle, Chicago, St Louis, just to name a few. Monuments were going red, like the Empire State Building was red that evening and so were corporations." She notes that many U.S. businesses allowed and even encouraged their employees to wear red on the 3rd.
Women showed up at work in all shades of red. They wore red dresses, red jackets and sweaters, red hats, red lipstick or carried red handbags. Beauty and style consultant Andy Paige says she joined the Go Red Movement because she believes in the important message behind it. "Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States," she notes. "One out of 3 women will die from heart disease, and more women die from heart disease than the next 6 causes of death combined, including all cancers. The Go Red Movement was ignited because women don't know this."
She says red is the right color to get the movement's message across. "You are kind of putting a ribbon around your finger," she says. "It's extremely important because you're sending a visual message. Red is the color of passion, energy and life. So if we incorporate red into our wardrobe then we're sending a visual message that we are taking care of our hearts and we believe in the movement. We are reminding ourselves every day to do something to keep up our heart health, something that most American women don't think about."
The American Heart Association launched the Go Red Movement three years ago. Group spokesperson Nieca Goldberg says the organization wanted to raise awareness among women about cardiac health and correct some common myths about heart disease. "Myth number one is that it's a man's disease," she says. "Not only is it a women's disease, but more women have died of heart disease since 1984 while men's heart disease has decreased." She explains that part of the reason is that women don't get to the hospital soon enough. "Two third of the women who have heart attacks never make it to the hospital. They die suddenly. Although chest tightness is a common symptom between men and women, women often have symptoms like shortness of breath, unexplained fatigue or the pressure lower down in the chest. So I think women really need to be aware of all symptoms of heart attack because when you realize you are having a symptom, you seek medical care sooner."
Through this campaign, the cardiologist says, the American Heart Association is also focusing on women who are at a higher risk for heart disease. "Statistics from the American Heart Association have shown that Black and Hispanic women are not getting the message as quickly as white women, and that might be because the message is not getting to those communities," she says. "In fact, they have heart disease even earlier because of earlier exposure to risk factors like high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity."
Dr. Goldberg says she was happy to see more women -- and men -- participating in Go Red Day this year. "Heart disease is not only a woman's problem or a man's problem," she says. "It is a family problem because family shares habits like exercise and the diet that they eat. It's very important to really teach children about healthy eating. To set a healthy example. Even if you go to a restaurant, show your children that you are choosing healthier food. It's very important for the family to really emphasize physical activity. It could be walking, hiking or biking."
Although Go Red Day is over, Dr. Goldberg says she hopes the colorful effect will linger as a reminder for women to take care of their hearts--to see their doctors and check their risk factors for heart disease, to be physically active and eat healthy food.