How women can take care of their hearts
eart disease personified would be a vicious killer of women who hid in the open, unrecognized and ignored before taking another life.
The sneaky killer was probably lurking among the 200 or so who attended the first day of a two-day education and awareness program at St. Mary’s Hospital last week.
St. Mary’s Cardiac and Vascular Services Department presented the Go Red for Women program where Dr. Maria Anderson, a cardiologist, and Dr. Sara Pereira, a thoracic surgeon, spoke from the heart.
Apparently, if heart disease were a person, she would frequently smoke, return for second helpings and enjoy desserts. She would watch too much television and wouldn’t get enough exercise.
She would enjoy repeating, “Life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.”
She would rush to grab reading material about bariatric weight loss surgery at one table, then buy a giant, 12-ounce chocolate heart on a stick at the next, one of the noteworthy juxtapositions at Go Red this year.
If the road of excess leads to wisdom, the shortcuts make you fat, so they say.
Heart disease was prohibited from wearing red to last week’s luncheon. The color was specifically reserved for the area’s avid supporters of heart-healthy lifestyles. Many fashionable statements were made, like the striking red dress and red jewelry adorning Mary Ellen Ireland, chaplain at St. Mary’s Hospital.
“This luncheon is all about raising awareness of heart disease among women,” said Julie Shayne, St. Mary’s chest pain center coordinator.
Shayne surveyed the sea of red at the Geno Saccomanno Education Center with apparent satisfaction. More than 300 people were expected for the two-day event, she said.
The Go Red appeal seemed to be working. Heidi Power of Grand Junction was there, ravishing in red and whispering to her infant daughter, Autumn.
“We’re here wearing red to empower women to take care of their own heart health and to show (Autumn) how important it is to eat right and take care of yourself,” Power said.
Carol Calacino, St. Mary’s manager of physician recruitment, said she was surprised to learn the number one killer of women was heart disease.
“I would have thought it was breast cancer,” she said.
Heart disease is, in fact, the number one cause of death for women and accounts for 40 percent of women’s deaths each year, Anderson said.
It is the number one killer of women age 20 and older, Pereira said.
More than 420,000 people die from heart disease each year; 267,000 of them are women who died of heart attacks, she said.
Six times more women die from heart attacks than from breast cancer, Pereira said.
Perhaps the most sobering statistic was that one in four women over age 65 have heart disease, Anderson said.
“The top two things for improving your heart health are if you smoke, stop smoking, and to eat a healthy diet,” she said.
Thursday’s menu featured chicken cobb salad without the traditional bacon or blue cheese dressing. Instead, a vinaigrette was used to keep the lunch heart-healthy, Shayne said.
Anderson included two long lists of foods to ditch and several lists of words to watch for when reading ingredients.
“Flavored” and “sweetened” topped the list of words to avoid.
Donuts, cake, cupcakes, salad dressing, processed meats and bacon — yes, bacon — topped the list of foods to ditch.
For her part, Pereira focused on recognizing the physical signs of heart disease..
Interestingly, among women, chest pain is not the most common sign.
High cholesterol and high blood pressure, obesity, physical inactivity, Type 2 diabetes, smoking and a high-fat diet are all serious risk factors.
Fortunately, all these risk factors can be controlled, Pereira said.
Prior to the presentations, women in red took part in nine different screenings aimed at identifying heart disease, including ones for high blood pressure, cardiac rhythm and peripheral artery disease.