February is heart month and not just because of Valentine’s Day. February is the month to focus attention on heart disease. Go Red For Women is just one of the yearly campaigns of the American Heart Association but Go Red focuses specifically on women and heart disease.
In 2004, the American Heart Association (AHA) faced a challenge. Cardiovascular disease claimed the lives of nearly 500,000 American women each year, yet women were not paying attention. In fact, many even dismissed it as an “older man’s disease.” To dispel the myths and raise awareness of heart disease as the number one killer of women, the American Heart Association created Go Red For Women – a passionate, emotional, social initiative designed to empower women to take charge of their heart health [taken from http://www.goredforwomen.org]
Heart disease is not exactly a visible disease and in fact it is a sneaky disease that catches you completely off guard. The statistics are staggering…
- Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women age 20 and over, killing approximately one woman every minute.
- More women die of heart disease than the next four causes of death combined, including all forms of cancer.
- One in three American women die of heart disease, compared to 1 in 30 women that die of breast cancer.
- Ninety percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease.
- Eighty percent of cardiac events in women may be prevented if they make the right choices for their hearts, involving diet, exercise and abstinence from smoking.
All of this hit home for me 14 years ago… My mom had scheduled a heart catheterization and called me extremely upset after the procedure. I was in the process of packing to go spend the night with her after the procedure when I got the phone call. She had three blockages almost 99% blocked and they had scheduled her for an emergency triple by-pass first thing the next morning. I was in shock! My mom, a nurse of twenty years, had known there was something wrong for almost a year but
had said nothing because she was taking care of my step-dad who had been diagnosed with lung cancer a few months earlier. By-pass surgery is a major surgery – they have to cut your breast bone in two and pull your chest apart to get into your heart. Recovery for most folks is quick but not my mom. She experienced an irregular heart beat and had to be shocked three times to try and get her heart back in rhythm then she developed a staph infection after leaving the hospital and had to be readmitted. The incision in her chest had to be left open and cleaned every 8 hours without fail. That surgery took its toll on my mom for sure and her recovery was very slow. Then 6 years ago she started experiencing chest pains again. This time the doctor was able to insert several stints into her arteries to push back the blockages. Since then mom has had 2 other procedures to insert stints into her arteries. The last two procedures were riskier and therefore she was sent to Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville for those procedures. My mom now has a total of 11 stints in her heart with the last three inserted just over a year and half ago. Several of those stints are actually in the same place. Advancements in the treatment of heart disease have been amazing and over the last 14 years I have seen that first hand. I also learned that while my mom’s heart is healthy her veins are not. I come from a long line of men and women with heart disease so my chances are high of developing issues unless I take notice now.
Why do I go red? I go red for my mom and for my future!
Update: In October 2012, my mom underwent a 4 hour procedure to have a pacemaker with extra wire inserted into her chest. The pacemaker has a battery life of 16 years, another example of how technology is working to improve our lives.