Heart Health and Women: Part 1

Some people may not realize that heart attacks are a leading cause of death in women.  With that in mind, the Calorie Control Council caught up with registered dietitian Robyn Flipse, scientific advisor to the Council, to discuss this important issue and specifically the Go Red for Women campaign which raises awareness of heart disease risks in women. Robyn has participated in the event for several years.

Robyn, please tell us about the Go Red for Women event.  What happens at the event, can you describe it?

Go Red for Women® is a nationwide event each February sponsored by the American Heart Association, with support from The Heart Truth®, to raise awareness about heart disease in women and support educational programs and research to prevent it. The Red Dress® has been adopted as the national symbol for the movement, and wearing something red on National Wear Red Day® helps kick-off the annual campaign on the first Friday in February. A highlight each year is the Red Dress Collection® fashion show in New York featuring red dresses created by top designers and worn by celebrities, fashion models and heart disease survivors.  I have attended this event several times and while the focus is on the gorgeous gowns and beautiful people on the runway, the night is really much, much more. Throughout the evening the personal stories of women who have been affected by heart disease are shared and millions more women across the country who are watching the broadcast get to hear what they can do to protect their own hearts and those of the ones they love. The compassion of these women who have beaten the odds is the most inspiring part of the night.

What is the purpose of the Go Red for Women event?

The most important purpose of the Go Red for Women® movement each year is to make the public aware that cardiovascular diseases are the number one cause of death among women – it is not just a man’s disease! The simple message to “know your numbers” (blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and body mass index) empowers women to take action by learning what their risk factors are and discussing ways to control them with their health care provider.  The next step is for every woman on this journey to tell other women how they, too, can take action, to improve their heart health.

Robyn, how did you become involved in the Go Red for Women event?

I became involved with Go Red for Women® in 2009 when I was invited to serve on a panel organized by the American Heart Association to discuss lifestyle changes women can make to improve their heart health. As the only registered dietitian on the panel, it was my job to explain the dietary choices that can help reduce excess weight and lower blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to emphasize the many foods that can be part of this healthy lifestyle, such as brightly colored fruits and vegetables; whole grain breads and cereals; all types of beans, seeds and nuts; a variety of fish; lean meats and poultry; lower fat milk, yogurt and cheese; plus cooking essentials like olive oil, herbs and spices and a little wine. And since women often “set the menu” for the rest of their household, I always felt that I was helping an entire family with every woman I reached.

Why is this event important to you?

I have always been a proponent of any public health campaign that focuses on disease prevention since I truly believe,if given the choice, we would all prefer to live our lives free of pain and illness.  What I have seen in my practice is that there are many people who just don’t realize how much is under their own control when it comes to preventing chronic diseases, like cardiovascular diseases.  And for many women, they do not realize they have the same risk as a man of dying from a heart attack or stroke after they reach age 50, so Go Red for Women® is important to me because provides all of the information, resources and support women need to keep heart disease off their medical history checklist.

Stay tuned for more important heart information as we hear from Dr. Peterson and Robyn Flipse in Part 2 of this series.  This doctor and dietitian team will share some of their concerns related to heart disease and women and what you can do as a woman (or how you can help a special woman in your life) stay heart healthy.

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN is a registered dietitian, cultural anthropologist and scientific advisor to the Calorie Control Council, whose 30+ year career includes maintaining a busy nutrition counseling practice, teaching food and nutrition courses at the university level, and authoring 2 popular diet books and numerous articles and blogs on health and fitness. Her ability to make sense out of confusing and sometimes controversial nutrition news has made her a frequent guest on major media outlets, including CNBC, FOX News and USA Today. Her passion is communicating practical nutrition information that empowers people to make the best food decisions they can in their everyday diets. Reach her on Twitter @EverydayRD and check out her blog The Everyday RD.

PHOTO: Courtesy American Heart Association. The American Heart Association is a qualified 501©(3) tax-exempt organization. *Red Dress ™ DHHS, Go Red ™ AHA ; National Wear Red Day® is a registered trademark.
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