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Get Ready to Go Red Tomorrow

PHOTO: Abby Despins of Madison is a congenital heart defect survivor who underwent two major operations before she was two. Tomorrow is the American Heart Association's 12th annual Go Red For Women Day, and Despins, who will be decked out in red, says it's about more than just wearing red clothes. Photo courtesy of Abby Despins.
PHOTO: Abby Despins of Madison is a congenital heart defect survivor who underwent two major operations before she was two. Tomorrow is the American Heart Association's 12th annual Go Red For Women Day, and Despins, who will be decked out in red, says it's about more than just wearing red clothes. Photo courtesy of Abby Despins.
February 5, 2015

MADISON, Wis. - Tomorrow is the 12th annual National Wear Red Day, promoted by the American Heart Association to bring awareness to heart disease and stroke, which kill more women than men.

Abby Despins of Madison was born with a congenital heart defect and had two open heart surgeries before she was 2 years old. She says being a survivor of a congenital heart defect means as an adult she battles high blood pressure.

"That's something I deal with every day," Despins says. "What that means for me is to live a heart-healthy lifestyle through eating and exercise and making sure I'm taking care of my heart every day so I can control that high blood pressure."

Despins also takes medication to help keep her blood pressure in check. She says it's very important for women to know their numbers, meaning their blood pressure and cholesterol.

"A lot of times when women have heart attacks or strokes or they have high blood pressure they don't notice it because they're trying to push it off because they have so many other tasks to do in a day," she says. "Our message is listen to your body, know when something's wrong, know your numbers."

According to Despins, heart disease is not limited to just older men. Each year, one in three women dies of heart disease and stroke, and the symptoms can be very different in women.

As the number one killer of women, Despins says it's critical women educate others about the problem.

"Your mom, your sister, your husband, your co-workers - spread the word about heart disease, and how impactful it can be to anyone," Despins says. "Anyone can have a heart attack or a stroke. It does not discriminate. You could be the fittest you are, you could eat healthy every day and it could still happen to you."

Despins says National Wear Red Day is not just about wearing red, but making a change.

"Use that day to really kick off how you're going to change your life," she says. "Whether it's stopping smoking or starting an exercise program or eating right; do something more that day than just wear red. But also wear red so other people know they have to take action as well."

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI