Wearing red will have a more purposeful meaning Friday as people across the country celebrate National Wear Red Day to kick off American Heart Month in February.
Wear Red Day was started by the American Heart Association as part of the Go Red for Women movement, meant to promote living a heart-healthy lifestyle and bring awareness to cardiovascular disease.
“We knew women presented so much differently than men when it came to heart disease symptoms, and heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women. Ask a woman 10 years ago, she probably wouldn’t tell you her No. 1 health issue was heart attacks,” said Amanda Nichols, AHA Development Director for Warrensburg, Sedalia and St. Joseph.
“On Wear Red Day, we wanted to really get focused on women’s heart health, health in general, and raise that awareness visually so we can remember why we do what we do with the Heart Association. We’re honoring those still here and those we’ve lost.”
Nichols said there are a variety of ways people will get involved Friday, including offices encouraging employees to wear red to work and various monuments across the country turning red for the day.
In addition to heart disease being the No. 1 cause of death for American women, Nichols said heart disease and strokes kill more people than all cancers combined; cancer is the No. 2 leading cause of death.
“One woman dies every 80 seconds from heart disease, which is incredibly high,” Nichols said. “It’s something I don’t think we really realize when thinking about heart health. You can’t see it (heart problems), and it affects you in different ways; that (statistic) is one thing that really stuck with me.”
Along with spreading awareness, both men and women can take some simple steps to reduce their risk of heart disease, including not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising and learning to manage stress. Nichols recommended “knowing your numbers” for blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar, among other statistics.
“The American Heart Association came out with new blood pressure guidelines that put 43 percent more people into high blood pressure — that’s huge,” she added. “Cholesterol, blood sugar, all those things that affect your overall well-being, that all plays a role in heart health.”
She also noted that the AHA has determined 80 percent of heart health risk factors are preventable, with the remaining 20 percent being genetic.
While February is Heart Month, the AHA works year-round to promote heart health. The Sedalia Go Red for Women luncheon will be hosted March 24 and will feature a female Missouri advocacy director who is a heart disease survivor. Funds raised will go toward furthering heart research and education in Missouri.
This is the first year learning CPR is a curriculum requirement for Missouri high schools. Nichols said the Missouri Heart Center donated a kit, including dummies and curriculum, to Smith-Cotton High School to assist teachers.
Nichols said AHA has also donated red hats knitted by Missouri volunteers to Bothwell Regional Health Center that will be given to every baby born in February through the Little Hats, Big Hearts program. The program raises awareness of not only heart disease but also congenital heart defects, the most common type of birth defect in the country.
AHA also has a national fundraising campaign, Life Is Why We Give, and Inter-State Studio in Sedalia is a local sponsor, donating more than $1,800 this week. Nichols said Inter-State offers families the option to purchase an “add-on” with their student’s school pictures and they can select from a number of charities to donate that additional money to, including AHA.
“Everyone has a reason to give, a why: themselves, their mom, a loved one, a best friend. (Life Is Why We Give) is just an opportunity for companies throughout the nation to offer people another way to donate who aren’t connected to an event or city,” Nichols explained.
For more information about the Go Red Movement or the Sedalia Go Red For Women Luncheon, contact Nichols at 660-441-0090.