By Holly Thomas
One year ago I was sitting at the New York City Go Red for Women Luncheon listening to Arianna Huffington give a captivating and inspiring speech. Her speech wasn’t necessarily something we haven’t all said in our heads before — but she said it OUT LOUD — boldly and with profound clarity. I’m paraphrasing here (of course, she said it much more eloquently) but her message was straightforward: we need to stop. Breathe. Appreciate life. And get personal with the fact that not much else matters without our health.
These provocative yet simple declarations had the 1,200 red-dressed women and men abuzz — including many of my own Macy’s colleagues and teammates sitting there in the room. We talked about it around the water cooler when we got back to the office that afternoon. We celebrated Arianna’s candor, humor and sensible wisdom. We talked about how right she was. I mean really right.
Fast forward a year and I’m curious how many of us actually made a change to our routines in order to better care for our health and our hearts — to sleep more, to agonize over our work email less, to exercise regularly, to “single task,” and to really pay attention to the little signals our body gives us.
Apathy is generally the hurdle when it comes to our health. We push our bodies to the limit and drive them to work harder for us — more stamina, more output, more perfection. We’re relentlessly demanding and yet we often do the minimum physical maintenance in return. Truth be told: we tend more to the battery life of our smartphone than to the recharging of our bodies. And then, we only make a change when something smacks us in the face.
I know this to be true. It’s through my work at Macy’s, the national founding sponsor of Go Red For Women, that I’ve had the privilege to work with Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association, and her passionate team to raise awareness of women’s heart health. Our company’s commitment dates back to the launch of the Go Red movement in 2004, and I’m deeply proud to say that through our work and the generous support of our customers and associates — Macy’s has raised more than $55 million for Go Red, and has been an important part of the work that is credited with saving 285 women’s lives each day.
Over the past decade, I’ve had the honor to meet heart disease survivors and hear their brave and emotional stories. And I’m all too familiar with this sobering statistic: Cardiovascular disease and stroke cause one in three deaths among women, killing approximately one woman every 80 seconds.
This fight is real. It’s fierce. It’s pervasive. It’s also largely preventable.
Eighty percent of cardiac events can be prevented. That’s an incredibly powerful message because it means you have the ability to do something about it, and it all starts with education and awareness. I’m so proud to work for a company that has put a stake in the ground and remained committed to raising awareness on this issue.
Every February, Macy’s stores across the country ‘Go Red’ to share the message of heart health. We invite our associates and customers to join us, or show their support by purchasing a Red Dress pin, or maybe a red dress, to benefit the cause. Last year alone, we raised $2.4 million for Go Red through these efforts, funding critical research.
The fight can’t end there, because heart disease will not stop, until we stop it. We must do more than simply wear red. We must make individual changes and be a champion for change in others. This year, I’m committed to taking a new approach. I will heed Arianna’s advice: to stop and breathe. I will find ways — small ones — to live a heart healthier lifestyle and encourage my friends and loved ones to do the same.
I’m starting with some simple steps like scheduling my Well-Woman visit, using my smartphone to track and inspire my activity, and taking back 10 minutes usually spent on social media to truly unplug each day.
I’m hoping that this helps me be more heart-healthy and a little happier, too. It’s a start, after all. What will you do?
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women in recognition of National Wear Red Day (Feb. 5, 2016), the aim of which is to raise awareness that heart disease isn’t just a man’s disease, and 1 in 3 will die. But 80 percent of cardiac and stroke events may be prevented with education, lifestyle changes, and action. To read all the stories in the series, visit http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/heart-disease/. And to follow the conversation on Twitter — and share a picture of yourself wearing red — find the hashtag #GoRed.
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