Press Release

February 1, 2008

Gov. Blagojevich urges women to make heart health a priority and lower their risk of heart disease

 The number one killer of women – heart disease took the lives of more than 14,300 Illinois women in 2005  

SPRINGFIELD, Ill.– In honor of National Wear Red Day today, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich urged women today to take control of their health and lower their risk of heart disease – the number one killer of American women. In fact, one in every four women dies of heart disease. The latest statistics show that more than 14,300 women in Illinois died from heart disease in 2005. National Wear Red Day is a day when women and men across the country wear red to show their support for this life-saving women’s heart disease awareness campaign. To help increase awareness in Illinois of women’s heart disease, Gov. Blagojevich proclaimed February “Women’s Healthy Heart Month.”

“Too many women in Illinois are lost every year to heart disease. We need to make sure every woman knows about the risks of heart disease and how they can lower their risk of having a heart attack so they can live longer, healthier lives,” said Gov. Blagojevich.

Risk factors are conditions or habits that make a person more likely to develop a disease.  They can also increase the chances that an existing disease will get worse.  Important risk factors for heart disease that women can do something about include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Being overweight
  • Being physically inactive

Some risk factors, such as age and family history of early heart disease, can't be changed.  For women, age becomes a risk factor at 55.

“National Wear Red Day is the perfect opportunity to give women an urgent wake-up call about the risks of heart disease. Most women fail to make the connection between risk factors and their personal risk of developing heart disease. We need to make sure women are taking their risk of this disease personally. Women need to take the information they learn about heart disease and apply it to themselves and look at what risk factors they may have and work to reduce them,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Damon T. Arnold.

“We greatly appreciate Gov. Blagojevich’s efforts to engage Illinoisans in National Wear Red Day for Women.  Heart disease is the number one killer of women and more women die of cardiovascular disease than the next five causes of death combined. But the good news is that heart disease is largely preventable. Influential partners, such as the State, are critical in helping us spread the message to women across Illinois to 'go red.' Our goal is to have women educate themselves about their risk for heart disease and to take action to reduce their risk,” stated Peggy Jones, Senior Director of Statewide Alliances and Cultural Health Initiatives for the American Heart Association.

By making some of the following changes, a person can help reduce their risk of heart disease:

  • Stop smoking
  • Be more physically active
  • Eat a well balanced diet (high in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fats and cholesterol)
  • Maintain a proper weight
  • Check blood pressure regularly
  • Visit a health care provider for a regular medical checkup
  • Reduce stress and tension
  • Limit intake of alcohol and caffeine

Gov. Blagojevich has made women’s health a priority in Illinois and strongly supports the Illinois Department of Public Health Office of Women’s Health and its administration of four specific cardiovascular programs: Heart Smart for Women, Heart Smart for Teens, LifeSmart for Women and the Illinois WISEWOMAN Program.

Heart Smart for Women is a 12-week education program where participants learn the benefits of exercise and nutrition as well as how to reduce their cardiovascular risk. Last year more than 1,200 women participated in the program and more than 70 percent of the participants reported a behavioral change at the conclusion of the series - meaning they had improved their nutrition and/or level of physical activity. In addition, 89 percent of participants reported improved knowledge.

Heart Smart for Teens is a nine-week education program to educate adolescent girls about the risk factors of cardiovascular disease and teach them the importance of healthy diets and physical activity. Last year more than 3,000 girls completed the program and almost 70 percent of those girls reported improved knowledge about nutrition and physical activity, while 50 percent reported a change in behavior.

LifeSmart for Women is a 10-week comprehensive education curriculum covering a variety of women’s health topics including cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, nutrition, fitness, stress, substance abuse, violence against women, sexual health, aging and family health and is appropriate to a widely diverse audience of women.

The Illinois WISEWOMAN Program is a cardiovascular research program for low-income, uninsured women between the ages of 40-64. WISEWOMAN is designed to help women reduce their risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes through screenings, physical activity and healthy eating habits. This research program is offered in 21 Illinois counties and targets women in the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program. Last fiscal year the Illinois WISEWOMAN Program provided free cholesterol, blood pressure and blood glucose screenings to approximately 100 newly-enrolled participants.

For more information on heart disease or women’s health issues you can visit the Illinois Department of Public Health Web site at, or call the Women’s Health line at 1-888-522-1282.

The text of the Governor’s proclamation designating February Women’s Healthy Heart Month follows:

WHEREAS, heart disease is the #1 killer of women and one in four American women dies of heart disease; and,

WHEREAS, in Illinois alone, there were 14,383 deaths in women in 2005 due to diseases of the heart; and

WHEREAS, the majority of women are not aware of their risk factors for heart disease, nor are they aware of the signs and symptoms of a heart attack; and

WHEREAS, risk factors for heart disease are smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, overweight/obesity, physical inactivity, diabetes, a family history of early heart disease, and age; and

WHEREAS, symptoms of heart attack are: uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back; pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, stomach; shortness of breath along with, or before, chest discomfort; and cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness; and

WHEREAS, it is critical that we, as a country and state, work to empower women and increase their awareness of the many things they can do to reduce their risk of heart disease; and

WHEREAS, this includes exercising regularly, eating healthy meals and snacks, loving their body and taking time for themselves; and

WHEREAS, February of each year is nationally recognized as American Heart Month, Go Red for Women, and this year in Illinois, we want to give special emphasis to women’s heart health by declaring that February 2008 be Women’s Healthy Heart Month; and

WHEREAS, in addition, on February 1, 2008, we are proud to be joining various heart health organizations across the country in encouraging people to wear red in support of the continued efforts to raise awareness of heart disease among women in Illinois:

THEREFORE, I, Rod Blagojevich, Governor of the State of Illinois, do hereby proclaim the month of February 2008 as WOMEN’S HEALTHY HEART MONTH in Illinois, and urge all citizens, especially women, to familiarize themselves with the signs, symptoms and treatments for heart disease, as well as the steps they can take to ensure themselves good heart health.

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Illinois Department of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
Phone 217-782-4977
Fax 217-782-3987
TTY 800-547-0466
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