SHIFT to Heart Health – A Message from the American Heart Association

AHA Redmond

By Jennifer Redmond
Executive Director, Omaha
American Heart Association

As the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Today, that applies more than ever to women’s health. That’s why the American Heart Association is urging women to schedule a well-woman visit this February to celebrate American Heart Month.

A well-woman visit an annual physical and discussion about your health that all women should get to help identify serious health concerns before they become life threatening – such as heart disease and stroke. Cardiovascular diseases are the No. 1 killer of women, taking one in three lives each year.

Could one exam change that?

Your well-woman visit will be tailored to your age, past health history and need for preventive screenings. Your family history, one of the top indicators of a future cardiovascular event, will also be considered.

The exam may also indicate need for other health screenings that are unique to women including mammograms for breast cancer, pap smears for cervical cancer, bone-mass measurements for osteoporosis; plus “gender-neutral” screenings and services such as colon cancer screening.

If you think your preventative well-woman visit is too expensive, good news: it’s likely free. Medicare and most private health insurance plans are now required to cover preventive services like this visit, also called an annual physical, wellness visit or well woman exam.

So, no excuses.

As women, we tend to put the needs of others before our own. When we’re making dinner or driving to soccer practice, we forget the thing that people need most. Us.

Until we start making our health a priority, cardiovascular disease will continue to be our top health threat. Yes, our threat. It is not just a man’s disease.

More than a decade ago, the American Heart Association discovered that heart disease killed more women than men. It took – and still takes – more women’s lives than all forms of cancer combined. Stemming from that, we created National Wear Red Day in 2003.

The next year marked the start of Go Red For Women, a network of women dedicated to awareness, education and research for women and heart disease. The 10th anniversary of the Go Red For Women movement in Omaha was celebrated at our 2015 expo.

Why red? It stands out. Red is a confidence booster and when you wear it, especially for heart-health, it makes you feel powerful (because you are!).

Maybe it’s just a coincidence that it’s also the color of our hearts.

This 2016 National Wear Red Day, celebrated on Feb. 5, marked our 13-year anniversary. And looking back on all we’ve accomplished, we’ve really made tremendous strides.

  • Nearly 90% of women have made at least one healthy behavior change.
  • More than one-third of women has lost weight.
  • More than 50% of women have increased their exercise.
  • 6 out of 10 women have changed their diets.
  • More than 40% of women have checked their cholesterol levels.
  • One third of women has talked with their doctors about developing heart health plans.

We’ve taught millions of women the dangers of heart disease, and made major changes in health care, like championing the well-woman visit. Now, we need you to empower yourself, and Go Red.

Today, nearly 300 fewer women die from heart disease and stroke each day, than before Go Red For Women started. Death in women has decreased by more than 30 percent over the past 10 years.

Over these first decade of the program, we’ve tracked the progress for millions of women involved, and the improvements within the healthcare industry. Here’s three wins:

  1. Gender-specific guidelines have been developed for prevention and treatment. We’re helping physicians recognize that women’s heart symptoms and treatment are different from men’s. Plus, our “Get With the Guidelines” program has helped hospitals provide improved treatment for both genders.
  1. We’ve helped medical research become gender-specific. Women have been under represented in clinical studies, but the FDA now requires results reported by gender. Increased gender-based research has revealed important differences in women’s symptoms and response to medications.
  1. Gender-specific inequalities are identified and targeted. We’ve discovered that women aren’t receiving the same level of treatment for heart disease as men. But now that’s changing.

Lives are being saved.

Those results are felt right here in Nebraska too.

We hope you’ll join our movement with just one simple phone call. Schedule your exam today.