Each year, many of us “Go Red for Women” in an effort to bring more awareness to heart disease and stroke. It’s with good cause. Heart disease is the No.1 killer of women—killing more than all forms of cancer combined. In fact, one in three women will die of heart disease and stroke each year. One in three!
Does go red for women stand for something?
Yes, those letters each stand for something you can do to help reduce your risk of heart disease and build awareness. According to the American Heart Association, here’s what the letters G-O-R-E-D stand for.
G: Get your numbers
Ask your doctor to check your blood pressure and cholesterol. If you haven’t had a wellness check in more than a year, make an appointment today and ask for these routine tests to be done. Don’t be afraid to ask your physician about your results and have her explain what the numbers mean. Don’t be afraid to visit your primary care physician or cardiologist. I actually look forward to seeing my local cardiologist, Dr. Gina Mentzer at Pioneer Heart (pictured below).
In addition to routine blood pressure checks at the doctor’s office, I also take and record my blood pressure at home with a digital blood pressure monitor.
O: Own your lifestyle
It’s up to you. No one can make a lifestyle change for you. Reduce your risks by not smoking and maintaining a reasonable weight. Look for opportunities to move more, exercise, and eat healthy. I got on a bicycle this year for the first time in 15 years. You know what, it felt pretty good.
R: Realize your risk
We think it won’t happen to us, but heart disease kills one of three women. Until heart disease happened to me, I never thought much about it. When I was diagnosed with my first heart-related illness in my 40s, that all changed. Now, I realize my risks and try to make lifestyle decisions that are good for my heart health.
E: Educate your family
Make healthy food choices for you and your family. If you’re a parent, teach your kids the importance of staying active and eating healthy.
D: Don’t be silent
Tell every woman you know that heart disease is our No. 1 killer. Guide other women to local resources and encourage your friends to make appointments for preventative care.
PIN FOR LATER
Why I “Go Red for Women”
Admittedly, I wore red for years without thinking much about the possibility of heart disease in my own life. Then, at age 45, I was diagnosed with complete heart block (where the electrical signal can’t pass through the heart) and cardiac sarcoidosis – a rare inflammatory condition where groups of immune cells form granulomas in different areas of the heart. After my diagnosis, I had surgery to implant a pacemaker and implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD).
Since then, I’ve been treated by both my local doctors in Nebraska as well as specialists at the Mayo Clinic. Since then, there has been improvement in my condition. However, shortly after I had surgery in 2020 to remove and replace one of the leads (small wires) in my heart, I developed tricuspid valve regurgitation which has only complicated my case. It progressed to be moderate to severe regurgitation. It doesn’t impact how I feel too much. Although I battled fatigue often.
My care team carefully considered all my options and monitored my heart for more than a year. In July 2022, I had surgery to extract my pacemaker/ICD and two leads. Sadly, the extraction did not improve my regurgitation issue. I may still need another surgery someday to repair or replace the valve.
I will return to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., in the spring of 2023 for another echocardiogram and followup. In the meantime, I’m going to do my best to reduce stress, avoid illness, keep moving, and make healthy food choices. I hope you’ll join me.
You can find more information about Go Red for Women and heart disease at GoRedForWomen.org.