Volunteering for a cause that touches you personally is a special occasion. This week, we had the opportunity to experience those feelings as we volunteered with the American Heart Association. This organization’s mission to “build healthier lives free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke” is important to our family. Heart disease runs within our family and has affected many women in our lives. Our grandmothers fight and have fought heart disease suffering multiple heart attacks over the years. My grandmother suffering one just a few weeks ago around Christmas. Heart disease in women has been an issue for years. 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. As the mother of two girls, I feel that it is important for us to teach them about this killer and the possible effect it could have on them. This week’s volunteer opportunity gave me the opportunity to do just that.
We represented the American Heart Association at the Fueling Your Family event held in Glenbrook Square Mall. This food, fun, and fitness fair educates children and families about the importance of healthy living. Dozens of organizations focused on health and fitness participated in the event. American Heart Association was one of those organizations. Our task for the morning was to hand out healthy cooking cookbooks and bookmarks, and help raise awareness of Go Red For Women. For two hours, we greeted visitors to our table and talked about the Go Red for Women campaign. We informed event goers about National Wear Red Day on Friday, February 3rd. February is American Heart Month and Wear Red Day is the official kickoff. You can join others in our community by wearing red to raise awareness of heart disease in women and advocating the cause.
This volunteer opportunity was a learning experience. Did you know women experience a heart attack differently than men? Signs of a Heart Attack in women:
- Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
- Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or light-headedness.
- As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.
More women die of cardiovascular disease than from the next four causes of death combined, including all forms of cancer. But 80 percent of cardiac events in women could be prevented if women made the right choices for their hearts involving diet, exercise and abstinence from smoking. Make it your mission to learn all you can about heart attacks and stroke. You do not want to become a statistic. I know that I do not.
Members of my family have battled cancer and heart disease. I have always assumed that I will die from one or the other. I used to joke with my mother that I hoped I would have a heart attack on the day I learned I had cancer. Now that the age of 40 is approaching, the threat becomes more real. With our busy lives, I have put my health on the back burner. Eating out of convenience and lacking the motivation to exercise has led to unwanted weight gain. I realize that I need to be an example for my daughters starting today and not in the future as a statistic. What good are we to our friends and family if we are not physically here? What example are we setting for our children by living unhealthy lifestyles? Will my children forgive me if they spend more than half of their life without a mother because she chose not to fight the disease? These are real questions that have difficult answers. This week’s experience helped me decide to make changes so that I can answer these questions and live a full life.
Live a healthy lifestyle. Encourage friends, family, and others to do so as well.
Join us . . . make it your mission to fight heart disease in women, the number 1 killer of women.