Press Release

February 4, 2005

Event raises awareness about heart disease in women

CHICAGO – Today, Illinois First Lady Patti Blagojevich, the Illinois Department of Public Health and the American Heart Association called on all Illinoisans to wear red in support of women’s heart disease awareness.  Participating in an informational and interactive program at the Thompson Center for National Wear Red Day, Mrs. Blagojevich stressed the danger of heart disease in women and advised simple measures to help women lead healthier lives. 
“My husband proclaimed February Women’s Healthy Heart Month to raise awareness that heart disease is not just a disease that strikes older men, it’s America’s number one killer of women,” said the First Lady. “As a woman and mother of two daughters, I feel that this issue needs as much attention as breast cancer.  I am pleased to collaborate again this year with the American Heart Association in our continued efforts to get women to lead healthier and happier lives.”
Today, Friday, February 4th is National Wear Red Day, which is sponsored in part by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI).  As part of its effort to raise visibility about the importance of heart-healthy living, the NHLBI encourages women and men to wear red today, and provided all female members of the Illinois General Assembly with red dress pins for National Wear Red Day.  The NHLBI is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and provides leadership for a national program in diseases of the heart, blood vessels, lung, and blood; blood resources; and sleep disorders.
ABC Chicago’s health reporter, Sylvia Perez, emceed today’s program.   Cardiologist Annabelle Volgman, M.D., a specialist in women’s heart disease from RUSH Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center and an American Heart Association board member provided the audience with facts about heart disease in women and ways to minimize risk of illness. The lunchtime crowd also got their hearts pumping with the help of fitness experts from the Eastbank Club, who led an exercise demonstration and gave advice on how busy women can find ways to stay physically active.
According to Illinois data, nearly 22,000 females died of cardiovascular disease in 2002, which includes heart disease and strokes. Heart disease includes coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, angina and other conditions. 
Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, called on all state agencies to participate in National Wear Red Day to promote cardiovascular health.  The Illinois Department of Public Health will kick-off a 12-week fitness program that challenges IDPH employees to walk 10,000 steps a day toward improved cardiovascular health. 
“I would invite all state agencies and workplaces to begin a similar program to promote the overall benefits of exercise,” Dr. Whitaker said.  “Heart disease used to be thought of as a man’s disease and now we know it is a major health concern among women, with African -American women being particularly vulnerable.”  
Heart attack warning signs include:
  • Chest discomfort or pain in the center of the chest that lasts longer than a few minutes
  • Spreading pain to one or both arms, back, jaw or stomach
  • Cold sweats and nausea 
Women are more likely than men to have such symptoms as; shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting and back or jaw pain.
While certain risk factors are uncontrollable, including age, family history or race, there are some things everyone can do to prevent heart disease: 
  • Control blood pressure, cholesterol and weight
  • Avoid smoking
  • Reduce stress
  • Engage in at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days
  • Consult physician about heart attack risks
  • Eat a nutritious and balanced diet
Over the past two years, the First Lady has worked tirelessly to promote initiatives that help Illinois families, focusing special attention on women and children’s health issues.  In addition to her work for the National Wear Red Day for the second straight year, the First Lady also led an effort to increase breast cancer awareness and prevention on National Mammography Day.  Most recently, the First Lady was honored by ORBIS International for spearheading the Illinois Pediatric Vision Awareness Initiative—the first state-sponsored campaign in the U.S. to specifically target amblyopia, or lazy eye, in children. 
For additional information about National Wear Red Day or the walking challenge and other healthy living resources visit the Illinois Department of Public Health’s Web site or call the Women’s Health-line at 1-888-522-1282.








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