Press Release

February 4, 2009


Go Red to Raise Awareness of the
Number One Killer in the U.S.

 Heart disease took the lives of more than 13,000 Illinois women in 2006  

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – To raise awareness of heart disease, Dr. Damon T. Arnold, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, along with the American Heart Association (AHA) and members of the Conference of Women Legislators (COWL), today celebrated Women’s Heart Disease Awareness Month at the State Capitol by encouraging all Illinoisans to wear red on Friday, February 6, 2009 – National Wear Red Day. The “Go Red for Women” movement encourages everyone to wear red as a simple, yet powerful way to raise awareness of heart disease and stroke.

Although heart disease is sometimes thought of as a “man's disease,” it is the leading cause of death for both women and men in the United States, and women account for 52.8 percent of the total heart disease deaths according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In fact, almost one in three women will die of heart disease. The latest statistics show more than 13,000 women in Illinois died from heart disease in 2006.

“Too many women 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,” said Dr. Arnold. “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.”

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 typically becomes a risk factor at 55.

LaTosha Caldwell is a 34-year-old mother of three who suffered a surprise heart attack in 2007 and shared her experience during the event to let people know that heart disease can happen to anyone, at any time.

“I do believe that as more women, or people for that matter, become aware of prevention and early warning signs, then we as a neighborhood, community, nation and world can beat this disease,” said Caldwell.

“Although heart disease is the number one killer of women, research shows that 80 percent of cardiac events in women could be prevented if women make the right choices for their hearts, such as eating healthier, getting regular exercise, choosing not to smoke and managing their cholesterol and blood pressure,” said Dr. Gregory J. Mishkel, an interventionalist at Prairie Cardiovascular, “The Doctors of Prairie” and a volunteer spokesman for the American Heart Association.

Symptoms of heart attack include:

  • 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
  • cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness

“More women die of cardiovascular disease than the next five causes of death combine, including all forms of cancer. I want to urge everyone, especially women, to learn about the signs, symptoms and treatments for heart disease, as well as the steps they can take to ensure good heart health,” said Rep. Sandra Pihos (R-Glen Ellyn) and co-chair of the Conference of Women Legislators

“We must work together - legislators, doctors, health departments and more - to raise awareness of heart disease. I encourage everyone to wear red this Friday for National Wear Red Day and join millions of people across the country working together to raise awareness of the number one killer in Illinois and in the U.S.,” said Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) and co-chair of the Conference of Women Legislators

This is the first year Illinoisans statewide will observe February as Women’s Heart Disease Awareness Month after being added to the State Commemorative Dates Act this past summer.

In recognition of Women’s Heart Disease Awareness Month, Advocate Health Care, in partnership with the Conference of Women Legislators (COWL) and area legislators, is offering free cardiac screenings for women at four separate locations during the week of Valentine’s Day. Advocate Health Care has joined with COWL and area legislators in the effort to spread awareness and help identify cardiac risk in women. The following Advocate hospitals will be providing free cardiac screenings to women over the age of 45:

  • Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital, Downers Grove
  • Advocate South Suburban Hospital , Hazel Crest
  • Advocate Illinois Masonic Hospital, Chicago
  • Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital, Barrington

To register for one of these screenings or to find out about additional screenings and classes at other Advocate sites, please call 1-800-3-ADVOCATE (1-800-323-8622).

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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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