Well Red AHA Wages A Colorful Battle Against Heart Disease

The American Heart Assoc. is seeing red.

On the street, within businesses and schools, and even radiating from the facades of office towers, the color is popping up everywhere, and that can only mean one thing: across the country, awareness of heart disease, the number one cause of death among women, is growing.

Indeed, the color red has become synonymous with the AHA’s ongoing efforts to combat heart disease in women. The national organization began educational and awareness programming geared toward the issue in 1997, but officially launched the Go Red for Women movement in February of 2004.

Since then, Go Red has attracted the support of some major sponsors – this year Macy’s and Pfizer, with additional support from Bayer and Pacificare and has grown to include several components, including:

  • The ‘Love Your Heart’ program, which promotes regular visits to health care providers and a cadre of heart-healthy habits for daily living;
  • Sales and giveaways of ‘Red Dress’ pins, used to show support of the Go Red movement and raise awareness of heart disease in women;
  • A Go Red cookbook, which will be sold in several major grocery chains across the country;
  • A comprehensive set of consumer-education materials, ranging from brochures, wallet cards, and posters to Web alerts, screen savers, and E-cards;
  • The ‘State of the Heart’ movement, new this year, which will disseminate several scientific facts through an annual report regarding women and heart disease;
  • A Physician’s Toolkit, created to provide health care professionals with appointment cards, a summary of new prevention guidelines, patient reports, red dress pins, wallet cards, an online monthly newsletter and more for their patients;
  • National Wear Red Day, to be staged on Feb. 3 this year, which encourages women to wear red in order to show their ‘passionate support;’ and
  • On a larger scale, the illumination of buildings and monuments in red light during all or some of the first week of February, company-wide Go Red programs, and the addition of red design schemes to publications across the country, including this issue of The Healthcare News.

Healthy Goals for Women

Total Cholesterol Less than 200 mg/dL
LDL (bad) Cholesterol LDL cholesterol goals vary.

For people at low risk for heart disease, the goal is less than 160 mg/dL.
For people at intermediate risk for heart disease, the goal is less than 130 mg/dL.

For people at high risk for heart disease including those who have heart disease or diabetes, the goal is to keep the LDL below 100 mg/dL. For some high-risk people, their goal may be less tan 70 mg/dL.

HDL (good) Cholesterol ……………………………….. 50 mg/dL or higher

Triglycerides ……………………………………………….. Less than 150 mg/dL

Blood Pressure ……………………………………………. Less than 120/80 mmHg

Fasting Glucose …………………………………………… Less than 100 mg/dL

Body Mass Index (BMI) ………………………………. Less than 25 Kg/m?

Waist circumference …………………………………….. Less than 35 inches

Exercise …………………………………………………….. At least 30 minutes on most days, if not all days of the week.

Eat a balanced diet emphasizing a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, low-fat or non-fat dairy products, fish, legumes and sources of protein low in saturated fat (e.g., poultry, lean meats and plant sources).

Don’t smoke – if you smoke, stop.
Schedule regular visits with your doctor.

Local Hues

But despite its quickly growing presence on the national front, Go Red is as much a local cause as it is a global one.

In Western Mass., several businesses and organizations are pledging their support to the Go Red for Women campaign this month. A Go Red breakfast will be staged at the Springfield Sheraton on Valentine’s Day, for instance, and the Monarch Place building on Main Street in Springfield will participate in the illumination component of the movement, lighting the front of the downtown office tower with red lights.

Monarch Place’s involvement in the red illumination places it in the same category as some major national landmarks, including Niagara Falls, the Empire State Building, Seattle’s Space Needle, and the Zakum Bridge in Boston.

“The region is really embracing the movement,” said Nicole Higgins, communications director for the AHA in Vermont and Central and Western Mass. “I think this is going to be a strong foundation year for Go Red involvement in Greater Springfield, and next year, it’s going to be off the charts.”

Higgins said the Northeast affiliate of the AHA has been working specifically to raise awareness of heart disease in Western Mass. because mortality rates from heart disease in women are particularly high in the area.

“Heart disease is the number-one killer in women across the country, but in Western Mass., it is by far the leading cause of death,” she said. “A large percentage of the population is underserved, and heart disease is also more prevalent in African Americans, so we’ve geared a lot of our programming toward that population.”

Higgins added that as an educational campaign, Go Red is a year-round movement, although it typically receives the most attention during its signature month of February, which is also American Heart Month In fact, there are three ‘cause campaigns’ that serve as major aspects of the AHA’s ongoing awareness and advocacy efforts. In addition to Go Red, the organization has also developed Power to End Stroke, a campaign to heighten the awareness and impact of stroke in the African American community, and a childhood obesity program that is currently in development, to be rolled out for next year.

Shades of Success

The AHA also sponsors a number of events year-round geared toward heart health awareness that do not fall under the auspices of Go Red for Women, but do contribute to the AHA’s core mission, to reduce disability and death caused by cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Annual Heart balls, for instance, are held across the country in order to raise funds to fight heart disease and stroke – one such black-tie event will be staged at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in Holyoke on March 3. Heart walks are also held throughout the year, recruiting teams as well as individuals to walk to raise funds and awareness. The Pioneer Valley Heart Walk is scheduled for May 21, while the Berkshire Heart walk is slated for September.

“All of the campaigns and events were developed to serve particular audiences,” said Higgins. “They’re typically localized to appeal to different regions, and to resonate within various communities.”

Go Red in Western Mass., for instance, is beginning to mirror the diverse populations represented in the region, with small events within groups of individuals and businesses, as well as large shows of support like that at Monarch Place.

Higgins said the pliability of the movement, and the fact that people and businesses can participate in a myriad of different ways, is one of the movement’s greatest strengths.

“Go Red was developed to make women aware of heart disease, but also of their personal risks,” she explained. “A problem that we realized early on was that women were becoming more aware of heart disease, but were not equating the danger to themselves.

A Broad Palette

“Different people respond to different things when it comes to raising awareness, and that’s why Go Red works,” Higgins continued. “Anyone can participate in almost any way, and that’s important, because heart disease is largely preventable with some life modifications. The more people that realize that, the healthier they will be.”

And that’s why the AHA wants everyone to see red this February.v Jaclyn Stevenson can be reached at stevenson@healthcarenews.com


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