Who would have thought that these catchy lyrics from the 1946 Broadway musical Annie Get Your Gun would fit so perfectly into a conversation today about women and heart disease?
Unfortunately, they do: More women than men have died of heart disease every year since 1984.
In fact, heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women claiming more lives than all cancers combined. We all worry about breast cancer — and believe me, as a doctor and a woman I am concerned as well — but let’s look at the numbers: 1 in 31 American women die of breast cancer each year compared to 1 in 3 from heart disease. That means one death every minute. That’s absolutely shocking — and not at all where we women wish to excel.
The good news — and there is good news — is that heart disease is largely preventable. This is why the American Heart Association launched Go Red For Women in 2004: We wanted to help women understand that heart disease is their number one threat — and then arm them with the information they need to win their fight.
Go Red For Women began as a grass roots campaign for women, by women and has been successful in almost doubling the number of women who are aware that heart disease is the leading cause of death. We, however, have a long way to go, especially among women of color — 48.9 percent of African-American women over age 20 have cardiovascular disease and yet only 1 in 5 believes she is at risk. Hispanic women develop heart disease 10 years earlier than Caucasian women, yet they are much more willing to take preventive action for their families than for themselves.
So, now that you know what keeps me awake at night, how about some more good news? Go Red For Women has amassed an army of 1 million women who will help us win this battle. Nearly 90 percent of the women who join the Go Red For Women movement make at least one healthy lifestyle change. That is an amazing and encouraging statistic. It means that almost a million women are eating better, moving more, losing weight, quitting smoking or better controlling their blood pressure, sugar or cholesterol. These changes, coupled with our emphasis on education, have resulted in more than 500,000 women saved from heart disease and nearly 300 fewer deaths every, single day.
But, as the earlier stats clearly show, our battle continues and today, with a powerful spot in partnership with the Ad Council, we reassert our rallying cry: Women can do anything men can do, and there’s something they’re even better at — dying of heart disease.
Go Red For Women, today, celebrates how far women have come, but acknowledges there’s more to do. We need women of all ages to join the fight and learn about their risks. We need every woman to start now to make the changes that will save her life.
We need you. Join Go Red For Women today, because while we women do know that we can do anything men can do, we have to be alive to do it.
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