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MN Wears Red to Focus on Women's Heart Disease

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February 3, 2012

ST. PAUL, Minn. – You'll likely notice that red is a common color choice for clothing in towns across Minnesota today. It is National Wear Red Day, an annual effort by the American Heart Association to raise awareness that the most likely cause of death for a woman is heart disease.

On average, at least 14 women die from heart disease and stroke in Minnesota every day – a figure that may surprise most women, says Dr. Anne Pearson, medical director for women's care with HealthEast Care System.

"I think it gets shadowed a lot by our concerns about cancer, but it's actually the number one killer for women and more women die of cardiovascular disease than probably the next five causes of death, including all the forms of cancer."

Dr. Pearson notes there are a number of behavioral changes that can cut the risk, from quitting smoking, to eating healthier and getting regular exercise. And, since an estimated 80 percent of heart disease is preventable, she says it's also important to 'know your numbers.'

"We're talking about your cholesterol, your blood pressure, whether or not you have diabetes, what your weight is, and what its implications to your health are. Beyond that, I think absolutely the number one thing that anyone can do for their heart health is to quit smoking, and there are lots of ways that providers can help patients do that."

She adds that a woman's regular focus on health is especially important, because they may or may not show the classic symptoms of heart disease, such as chest discomfort.

"Women can sometimes have more subtle findings, and they can be other things - other areas of discomfort, even in the stomach, or shortness of breath, fatigue, pain in the back - very vague, but you need to pay attention to them, and at least think about the potential for heart disease."

Throughout February, which is American Heart Month, communities and hospitals around the state are offering health fairs and screenings at reduced rates, or free. More information about women and heart disease prevention is online, at

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN