Press Release

February 8, 2012


COWL Walking Challenge!  

State health department, Conference of Women Legislators and American Heart Association team up to fight the number one killer

SPRINGFIELD – One in three women dies of cardiovascular disease. To bring awareness to heart disease, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), Conference of Women Legislators (COWL) and the American Heart Association (AHA) are teaming up this February to Go Red For Women ™ . This year we are not just talking the talk, legislators are walking the walk and signing up for the COWL Walking Challenge! Each legislator who signs up for the challenge will receive a pedometer donated by the American Heart Association. Each day between March 5 and April 29, participating legislators will record the number of steps they take each day, and report the total number of steps to IDPH each week.

“Today we are challenging the women of COWL to help us spread awareness of the fight against heart disease by taking personal action to prevent it,” said Mark E. Peysakhovich, senior director of Governmental Relations with the American Heart Association. “We challenge each participant to track their steps over the next several weeks of the legislative session with the pedometer. Pfizer Inc. will donate $1 for every mile walked, up to $5,000, to go toward the COWL scholarship fund.”

“Having the opportunity to add funds to the COWL scholarship fund while improving our own health is a win-win. We are excited to jump on this challenge with IDPH and the AHA,” said COWL co-chair and Senator Carole Pankau.

In addition, individual legislators in each chamber who have walked the most miles will have the opportunity to co-host a heart-health education event in their district with the American Heart Association. The winner will be announced at COWL’s annual member event on May 9, 2012.

“The members of COWL are excited to, literally, take steps to improve our own heart health while spreading awareness of heart disease - the number one killer of women,” said COWL co-chair and Representative Naomi Jakobsson. “COWL has been a long-time supporter of the Go Red For Womenmovement and we are eager to take this commitment further.”

Being physically active is a key step in decreasing your risk of heart disease. Other steps you can take include controlling your weight, blood pressure and cholesterol. Eating a nutritious diet, reducing your stress level and quitting smoking can also help you lower your risk of heart disease.

“Many women are unaware that heart disease is the number one killer of women. It takes the lives of more women each year than all cancers combined,” said Teresa Garate, assistant director for the Illinois Department of Public Health. “And less than half of all women know what are considered healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels, two major risk factors for heart disease. This February, I encourage everyone to Go Red For Women and make sure the women in your life know about heart disease and how to reduce their risk.”

Risk Factors

Know the risk factors that may increase your chances of getting heart disease.

  • High blood cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Being overweight
  • Family history of early heart disease
  • Age (55 or older for women)
  • Being physically inactive
  • Smoking


Some questions to ask your doctor or health care provider to help you better understand heart health include:

  • What is my risk for heart disease?
  • What is my blood pressure, what does it mean for me and what do I need to do about it?
  • What are my cholesterol numbers, what do they mean for me and what do I need to do about them?
  • Do I need to lose weight for my health?
  • What is my blood sugar level? Am I at risk for diabetes?
  • What other screening tests for heart disease do I need? How often should I return for checkups for my heart health?
  • How much physical activity do I need to help protect my heart?
  • What is a heart-healthy eating plan for me?

Heart Attack Urgency

If you experience any of the following symptoms, do not wait (no longer than five minutes) before calling for help. Call 911 and get to the hospital right away.

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat
  • Sudden dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Unusual upper body pain (arms, back, jaw)
  • Skipped heart beats
  • Unusual or unexplained fatigue

Preventing Heart Disease

The following are some of the steps you can take to decrease your risk of heart disease.

  • Quit smoking
  • Control your blood pressure
  • Control your blood cholesterol
  • Control your weight
  • Reduce your stress level
  • Be physically active
  • Eat a nutritious diet

For more information about heart disease, go to, call 1-800-AHA-USA1 or visit

idph online home
idph online home

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