Have a heart and wear something red. It's all for a good cause.
Valentine's Day may have gone but the heart was on everyone's minds at on Wednesday as the American Heart Association held its annual Go Red For Women Luncheon. The goal of the event is to raise awareness of heart disease and stroke in women.
"Heart disease is the number one killer for women, the larger killer even among all cancers put together, which is an astounding statistic,"event chairperson Cindy McLoughlin said.
According to the AHA, one in three women in America die of heart disease, compared to one in 30 that die of breast cancer. Pink is the color of choice for breast cancer awareness. For heart disease, it's red, and hundreds of attendees showed up decked out in crimson attire.
The luncheon featured workshops on managing stress and motivating oneself to stay healthy. Guests then had the opportunity to bid on hundreds of prizes in a silent auction, as well as enter a raffle to win one of the grand prizes, including a diamond watch and a trip to Vegas. All proceeds go to the AHA.
Medical experts were on hand as well, offering free blood pressure checks, and advice on the warning signs of a heart attack or stroke. Chest pains in one form or another, shortness of breath, and exercise limitations are just some of the things to take note of, according to cardiologist David Friedman of North Shore LIJ of Plainview.
Women leave the event armed with the knowledge they need to make changes in their daily lives to help prevent heart problems. "Whether that's reducing stress, changing your diet or exercising ten more minutes than you did before," McLoughlin said. "Just some small change when you leave herewill dramatically improve your life."
But who better to speak about strokes than a survivor herself? Yvette Fields of Baldwin is a volunteer speaker for the Heart Association. Nine years ago at the age of 42, she suffered three strokes over a nine day period. Being a diabetic put her at risk, but she said she felt in tip-top shape when she was struck.
"I was eating right, I was exercising, I was taking my meds on time. But by that time, the damage had been done [to my brain], it was too late," Fields said.
Fields says she had ignored what turned out to be a series of mini-strokes days before her massive one. Today she is active and healthy, and told her story to the hundreds in attendance. The message: take care of yourself, and take action, before it's too late.
"I'd like for people to think about how heart disease and stroke could possibly impact their family, and change the quality of their life as it did mine," Fields said.
It's a message of hope. From the heart, colored in red.