National Wear Red Day Raises Awareness About the Effects of Cardiovascular Disease on Women

Feb 5, 2016

Kim Townsend, this year’s Chair of Syracuse “Go Red for Women” campaign and President and CEO of Loretto, speaks at a local celebration of National Wear Red Day at The Nottingham Friday.
Credit John Smith

  Women decked out in red filled a special events room in The Nottingham in Jamesville Friday. The common theme wasn’t a coincidence; they were celebrating National Red Day. For these women, and for many others around the country, red is a statement, a reminder of the importance of keeping their hearts strong and healthy.

“So as you wear red, we are all thinking about the people we love in our lives, the women we love in our lives, and their risk of cardiac disease,”  Kim Townsend, this year’s Chair of Syracuse “Go Red for Women” campaign and President and CEO of  Loretto, said. 

Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of women, with 1 in 3 women dying of heart disease and stroke every year, according to the American Heart Association. However, heart disease is often a silent killer in women because women may have different risk factors and symptoms of heart disease than men. 

Townsend recognizes those discrepancies. 

“I think women have very stressful lives,”  Townsend said. “We’re often managing multiple roles and multiple responsibilities, so I think that that’s something that’s a challenge. People do have genetic predispositions to heart disease, and I think that people also do need to be aware that they need to take  time to watch what they eat and to exercise and to do those heart-healthy things.”

Townsend added it’s important for women to know their numbers by regularly checking their blood pressure, body mass index (BMI) and cholesterol.  She says most insurances also cover an annual  “Well Women Check-up.” 

Denise McGraw of the American Heart Association shares the story of her stroke, and how she downplayed her own symptoms, at a local celebration of National Wear Red Day at The Nottingham Friday.
Credit John Smith

  The American Heart Association’s Denise McGraw encourages not to put off early warning signs. At the event, she spoke about how she once minimized her own symptoms while on vacation.  

“I was jet-skiing and doing some fun activities, and I was having some neck pain and headaches,” McGraw remembered. “I really was pushing it off, thinking I just jarred something in my neck or potentially just taking some over-the-counter pain medication would make it go away.”

 However, McGraw returned home and continued exercising and, one day, after spin class, felt extremely dizzy. She suffered a stroke but, fortunately she asked her husband to call 911 in time. 

“I thought that would possibly be my last day,” McGraw said.  "But fortunately, because of the work of the American Heart Association and all of you in this sea of red today, I’m here to celebrate and thank you."

Symptoms of a heart attack for women may be nausea or dizziness, shortness of breath, back or jaw pain, and chest pressure. Recognizing these symptoms and calling 911 for help can help save a life, according to the American Heart Association. 

Fifteen buildings in the Syracuse area are lighting up red or displaying red decorations to spread a message of heart health.

Those buildings include:

  • Crouse Hospital
  • Crowne Plaza Hotel
  • CXTec and TERACAI
  • KeyBank
  • Le Moyne College
  • Loretto
  • Metropolitan Water board Alexander F. Jones Administration Center, Clay
  • National Grid
  • Onondaga Community College
  • Onondaga Tower
  • Snakeoil Glassworks, Skaneateles
  • St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center (Prospect Avenue and James Street locations)
  • Syracuse University, Hall of Languages