Nation wears red for cardiovascular disease

Kim Thompson

If you notice an abundance of red apparel on campus today, it’s likely because it’s the American Heart Association’s second annual National Wear Red Day.

The association sponsors the day to promote awareness about how serious cardiovascular disease is for women and to change the misconception it’s a disease only men develop, said Lianne Fowler, communications director for the Summit County American Heart Association.

“Every year since 1984 more women than men have died of heart disease,” Fowler said.

Traditionally, men were targeted for heart awareness programs which may be why women don’t feel at risk. Chief university physician Dr. Raymond Leone said part of the reason only men were targeted is because in the past, research was only conducted on men.

When women list which disease they believe they’re most likely to develop, the primary response is breast cancer, according to the Web site of the American Heart Association. But cardiovascular disease, not breast cancer, is the No. 1 killer of women, said Dr. Deborah Plate, one of two coordinators for the Women’s Heart Advantage at Akron General Medical Center.

“While breast cancer is admittedly a devastating diagnosis for a woman of any age, the lifetime risk of breast cancer is about one in nine,” Plate said via e-mail. “Only one in 29 women dies of breast cancer, while one in 2.5 will ultimately die of cardiovascular disease.”

To prevent the disease, Plate said young women need to realize their risk for the disease and be proactive early.

“I would encourage young college women to ‘know their numbers,’ ” Plate said. “This means that they should request to have their cholesterol levels done especially if there is a strong family history of heart disease.”

Leone added that some percentage of the risk for heart disease is genetic, but many factors are controllable.

“There are things you can control and there are things you can’t,” Leone said. “You can control the amount of exercise you get.”

The American Heart Association identifies major risk factors for the disease as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and tobacco smoke.

For more information on cardiovascular disease, call The Women’s Resource Center at (330) 672-9230.

Contact medicine reporter Kim Thompson at [email protected].