Saturday, February 1, 2014

Wear Red Friday, February 7th!

I recently wrote a short piece for Bean's school newsletter, and I wanted to share it on my blog as well.  Wear red this Friday, February 7th to raise awareness of heart disease in women!  Educate yourself and those you love on the risk factors and signs!

I'll never forget my first day of 8th grade. It was a unique day from the beginning, but I never imagined that my life would be forever changed by the time I went to bed that night. Or that I would sleep in an apartment I had never visited before. I certainly didn't anticipate crying in my sleep or waking up screaming.

My first day of 8th grade was August 16, 1994. That was the day my mother – a single parent of two daughters - died of a heart attack while my sister and I watched. I chased the fire truck and led the first responders to my home when they turned the wrong way. My 16-year-old sister stayed with Mom as she lost consciousness.

In the months and years that followed, we learned that heart disease is the leading cause of death for women. It kills 1 in 3 women and more than all forms of cancer combined. We had never imagined heart disease was a threat to our active, vibrant, 45-year-old mother.

Most shocking, though, was that Mom had had symptoms for three months before she died and had reported them to her doctor. As happens to many women, her symptoms were dismissed as emotional in nature. The day she died, she believed she was having a panic attack for almost 16 hours before she passed away.

My sister and I have been involved in the cause of women's heart health for many years now; we don't want any more mothers, sisters, daughters, or friends to die when awareness and advocacy could get them life-saving medical care.

February 7th is the National Day to Wear Red to raise awareness of heart disease in women. I hope you will join me in dressing conspicuously in red to spread word of your commitment to your heart health and of those you care about. 

Before February 7th, I urge you to visit and find out about the signs, symptoms, and risk factors of heart attack in women and make plans to talk to your doctor about any concerns you have. Make sure the women in your life know how different a heart attack can look and feel in a woman from how it looks for men. Women often experience fatigue, jaw pain, or even flu-like symptoms when they are having a heart attack. They may not experience chest pain!

I go red to honor my mother and support other women in advocating for their health. I go red for my two little boys so that I may see them graduate from high school, get married, and have families of their own. Will you join me?

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