Heart Disease Deaths Continue Decline – but Increases in Heart Disease Risk Factors in Young Women May Threaten Progress
February is American Heart Month, and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's (NHLBI) landmark heart health awareness campaign for women—The Heart Truth—continues to help increase awareness that heart disease is the No.1 killer of women.
Kicking off Heart Month is today's National Wear Red Day, a national observance that encourages Americans to wear red to raise awareness. Next Friday, Feb.13, under the tents in New York's Bryant Park, The Heart Truth will hold its sixth annual Red Dress Collection Fashion Show – an event that celebrates the Red Dress as the national symbol for women and heart disease awareness. The event will bring more than 20 of today's leading celebrities together on the runway in fashions created by America's top designers for women's heart health.
Today, the NHLBI, part of the National Institutes of Health, is also announcing signs of progress. Heart disease deaths in women have gone down in each of the seven years since 1999—from 373,575 in 1999 to 315,674 deaths in 2006. This decrease of more than 15 percent is a consecutive yearly decline that has not occurred before.
NHLBI experts analyzed data for 2006, the most recent year for which data are available. The analysis shows that women are living longer and healthier lives, and dying of heart disease at much later ages than in the past years. However, data on increasing rates of overweight and obesity, important risk factors for heart disease, in younger women indicate there could be a greater prevalence of heart disease in later years.
"Women must get serious about heart disease and take control of their heart health, starting at an early age," said Elizabeth G. Nabel, M.D., director of NHLBI. "Younger women need to take steps now, like eating a healthy diet and being physically active, to help prevent heart disease later."
Additionally, a new survey, conducted in January 2009, shows that 65 percent of women are aware that heart disease is their No.1 killer, a slight increase from 2008. However, even with awareness on the rise, many women do not take this message seriously or personally. One-third of women still underestimate their own personal risk of getting heart disease, and too many—one in four women—still die from heart disease.
"Understanding your personal risk of heart disease really matters. Having just one risk factor for heart disease—like high blood pressure or being overweight—doubles your chance of developing heart disease. And the alarming fact is that more than 80 percent of midlife women have one or more of the risk factors," said Dr. Nabel.
Dr. Nabel noted that the Feb. 13 fashion show—presented by Diet Coke, with national sponsors Swarovski and Tylenol/St. Joseph Aspirin/Viactiv, and makeup partner Bobbi Brown Cosmetics—brings focused attention to the issue of heart disease and women.
In another awareness-raising activity, The Heart Truth in partnership with Clothes Off Our Back, is, for the first time, auctioning off several red designer dresses worn by celebrities in The Heart Truth's Red Dress Collection Fashion Shows at www.clothesoffourback.org. The dresses up for auction will be on display at Rockefeller Center's Top of the Rock Observation Deck from Feb. 14 through Feb. 21. The Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH) will use proceeds from the auction to benefit and fund efforts related to women's heart health awareness and research.
"I am delighted that the fashion and entertainment industries will again join with The Heart Truth in urging women to take charge of their heart health," said Dr. Nabel. "Since The Heart Truth began seven years ago, millions of women have learned that heart disease is their No.1 killer through our efforts at the national level, but equally important through our community programs aimed at reaching women who are at high risk for heart disease."
Women of color continue to have higher rates of some risk factors for heart disease and are more likely to die of the disease. To help address this issue, the NHLBI and the FNIH recently awarded community education grants to: Cardiology Associates Foundation, Arkansas; The National Latina Health Network; and The Links, Incorporated. The grants will support community outreach to women—especially those of color, low income, or in rural areas—to help prevent heart disease.
Last week, the DHHS Office on Women's Health, a Heart Truth Partner, funded 48 mini-contracts to support the goals of The Heart Truth campaign through educational events across the 10 regions of the United States. State Health Departments, women's health organizations, faith-based organizations, and academic institutions will be offering these events over the next 6 months.
The Heart Truth aims to spread the word that heart disease is largely preventable. Women have tremendous power to reduce their risk of heart disease and lead a longer, healthier life. In fact, by doing just four things—eating right, being physically active, not smoking, and keeping a healthy weight —Americans can lower their risk by as much as 82 percent. Risk factors for heart disease include:
- age (55 or older for women);
- a family history of early heart disease;
- high blood pressure;
- high blood cholesterol;
- being overweight or obese; and
- being physically inactive.
NHLBI's introduction of The Heart Truth's Red Dress as the national symbol for women and heart disease awareness in 2002 sparked a national movement that has united partners to promote the common goal of a greater awareness of heart disease and better heart health for all women. The Red Dress has become one of the most recognizable health symbols in the United States. More than half of women recognize the Red Dress as the national symbol for women and heart disease.
Celebrity participants in this year's Red Dress Collection Fashion Show include: Amanda Beard, Brittany Snow, Daisy Fuentes, Hilary Duff, Jane Kaczmarek, Jennie Garth, Katie Couric, Kristi Yamaguchi, Laila Ali, Lynda Carter, Nastia Liukin, Natasha Henstridge, Nia Long, Patricia Arquette, Samantha Harris, Susan Lucci, Tori Spelling, Valerie Bertinelli, and Vivica A. Fox.
Participating designers in the 2009 Collection include Badgley Mischka, Betsey Johnson, Carmen Marc Valvo, Carolina Herrera, Christian Siriano, Cushnie et Ochs, Daniel Swarovski, David Meister, Donna Karan, Gustavo Cadile, Isaac Mizrahi, Kevan Hall, Marchesa, Max Azria, Michael Kors, Nicole Miller, Tracy Reese, Vera Wang, and Verrier.
For additional information, visit www.hearttruth.gov or email your inquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please Note: Participants in The Heart Truth's Red Dress Collection 2009 Fashion Show were confirmed at time of release and are subject to change.