Valentine’s Day is a fun time to think about your heart’s romantic needs, but the Go Red for Women movement is an important time to think about your heart’s physiological needs. Kicking off today’s National Wear Red Day, we’re here to talk about the importance of heart health for women and learn vital information that could save your life. As they say, knowledge is power. Armed with the right facts, women can face the very real threat of heart disease.

“Many women still don’t recognize heart disease as the number one threat to their health,” says Dr. Sarah Rinehart, a cardiology specialist at Piedmont Hospital. “Some believe heart disease is only a man’s disease; others think breast cancer, which affects 1 in 8 women, is the biggest risk to their health. In reality, heart disease is the biggest threat — affecting 1 in 3 women in the United States.”

Go Red 2015

Red never looked so good when it comes to raising awareness for women and heart disease. Image: Metro Atlanta American Heart Association

Go Red Atlanta

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women. Thanks to the American Heart Association, efforts to spread the word are working, one red boa at a time. Image: Metro Atlanta American Heart Association

Think about that scary statistic in a different perspective — approximately one woman every minute dies from heart disease. What adds to the misconception about women and heart disease is that the warning signs differ from those of men and affect each woman differently. This makes heart disease a “silent killer” for women, who usually don’t understand or recognize the symptoms and thus, don’t receive treatment or inform their health care providers.

In order to raise awareness about heart disease in 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,” says Dawn Bading, vice president of human resources and diversity for Kaiser Permanente. Since the red dress was already a national symbol for women and heart disease awareness, AHA adopted this visual, and the movement now has a uniform, in addition to a goal and followers.

Go Red 2015 pledge

Make a pledge to stay heart healthy, for yourself and your family. Image: Metro Atlanta American Heart Association

Arming women with the right information in the battle against heart disease will be taken to the next level at next week’s Go Red Wellness Expo and Luncheon at the Intercontinental Hotel Buckhead. Bading says the February 12 event is “a collaborative corporate and philanthropic effort designed to not only raise funds, but also raise awareness of women’s risk of heart disease. This year’s luncheon will feature a live broadcast from Dr. Mehmet Oz, with a special guest appearance from BeBe Winans. The luncheon gives women a chance to celebrate their hard work and develop relationships that will continue to grow the Go Red Movement.”

Women who attend Atlanta’s Go Red Luncheon will hopefully walk away making at least one lifestyle change that will alter their way of living and prolong their lives. The annual event celebrates and supports the lifesaving service by the AHA, including funds needed for research, education and outreach.

Go Red 2015 ballroom

Last year’s Go Red Luncheon was a ballroom full of women bathed in red, seeking more information about heart disease and how they can help in the fight against it. Image: Metro Atlanta American Heart Association

For those women who are unable to attend the 2016 Wellness Expo and Luncheon, there is still crucial information to gather about the disease. As part of the Go Red for Women movement and StyleBlueprint’s goal of connecting women, we’d like to share some of the warning signs of heart disease for a woman:

  • Chest discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Discomfort or pain in one or both arms, neck, back, stomach or jaw
  • Feelings of nausea and of pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of the chest

“Remember that you know your body,” Rinehart says, “and if you see a decline in your functional activity secondary to symptoms, this could be a warning sign for you to seek medical advice.” If you believe you are at risk of heart disease or just have questions about the illness, it’s crucial to keep your doctor in the loop.

Go Red 2015 panel

Circle of Red (pictured here from last year’s luncheon) is a society of women who have the passion, the motivation and inspiration to drive and influence change in the community regarding heart health of women. Image: Metro Atlanta American Heart Association

The best way to keep a heart happy and healthy is prevention with some simple lifestyle changes. Rinehart recommends getting regular heart screenings (cholesterol, blood pressure and blood glucose level checks every few years), improving diet (eat foods low in saturated fat, cholesterol and salt) and upping activity (30 to 60 minutes of physical activity per day). If you have unavoidable risk factors, like a family history of heart disease, high blood pressure or a history of pre-eclampsia or gestational diabetes, it may be worth your time to seek advice from a cardiologist to identify early disease.

Illnesses like breast cancer have made quite a dent in our consciousness, and because of that, many of us have hopefully gotten into the habit of performing self exams every month. It’s now time to be just as proactive with your heart health and help keep your body’s motor pumping. Every time you pull out that Little Red Dress, think about what’s going on underneath — putting as much effort into feeling good on the inside as you do to looking good on the outside.

Have a heart-to-heart (get it?) with your mother, sister, daughter, BFFs and any other member of your circle about what you’ve learned about women and heart disease. Tickets are still available for the 2016 Atlanta Wellness Expo & Go Red for Women Luncheon with Dr. Oz on Friday, February 12, 2016, from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Reserve your seat, make a donation and share your story by visiting Atlanta’s Go Red for Women site.