See a Red Dress, Remember to Protect Your Heart

By Jane Fox, RN, MSN, CCRN

Across America people can identify the significance of pink ribbons. They know what it means when professional teams sport the color pink. They understand when they shop at the grocery store why their bottled water is covered with large pink ribbons in October. But do the people of America know the significance of a red dress pin?

Prevent Heart Disease - Know Your Numbers

The red dress stands for the prevention of coronary heart disease (CHD), the number one killer of women according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Red Dress Heart Disease 

CHD is the cause of 1 out of every 4 female deaths; that’s 25%. Although many people think of heart disease as a “man’s disease,” the same numbers of men and women die from CHD. And, two-thirds of women who die suddenly of CHD have no previous symptoms. Even if you do not have symptoms you may be at risk.

Stephanie Sabotka, a 39-year-old mother of five, came home from traveling on Saturday, shoveled snow on Tuesday, played tennis on Wednesday, experienced chest pain and heart attack on Thursday and had open heart surgery on Friday.

Stephanie Sobotka 

She knew she had a history of heart disease with both her mother and father, but as an active 39-year-old she felt she didn’t have to worry. Looking back, she wishes she would have taken her family history seriously and known her numbers. Armed with that information she may have been able to prevent a heart attack. 

Risk factors for CHD include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High LDL cholesterol levels, and
  • Smoking

The CDC suggests almost half of all Americans have at least one of these risk factors. Other conditions also lead to heart disease:

  • Diabetes
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Eating a poor diet
  • Being physically inactive
  • Excessive use of alcohol

All women can take simple steps to improve their heart health, and knowing your numbers and acting on that knowledge is the best way to prevent CHD.

Simple tests at your doctor’s office that will help you know your numbers include:

  • Blood pressure
  • Cholesterol
  • Blood sugar levels.
  • Waist circumference

To further reduce your risk, stay active, eat healthy foods, quit smoking, limit alcohol intake, and lower your stress levels.