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Say health is important: Go Red
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Signs & symptoms of a heart attack in women:

• Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back
• Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach
• Shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort
• Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness

On Friday, February 6, I was wearing red. Were you? I got many comments (and compliments) on my red shirt. I, in turn, used it as a way to start conversation about women’s heart disease awareness. So basically I wore red, got compliments, and got to talk about a good cause.

It was a win-win.

But it doesn’t end there. February is Go Red for Women month. The Heart Truth campaign created and introduced the Red Dress as the national symbol for women and heart disease awareness in 2002. The American Heart Association worked to make that centerpiece a fashionable statement to inspire women to learn more about their personal risk for heart disease.

The American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women Red Dress Collection is an exclusive event where top designers, models and celebrities demonstrate their support for women’s heart health. Presented by Macy’s during Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in New York City, this year’s event is on February 12. Different models and different designers participate each year but the message is always the same: “Heart Disease Doesn’t Care What You Wear—It’s the No. 1 Killer of Women.”

Most of us will not attend Fashion Week (but, if you are, can you take me with you?). Most of us will not hobnob with Giada De Laurentis, Gina Torres, or Victoria Justice (famous people we don’t know) while wearing Oscar de la Renta, Dolce and Gabbana, or Nicole Miller (famous designers that make one-of-a-kind dresses for those famous people we don’t know). But we can learn from them.

We can start to improve our heart health by knowing the signs and symptoms of a heart attack and stroke in women.
Here’s some breaking news: men and women are different. Let me let that one sink in for a minute…

So when you think about it, it shouldn’t really surprise you that women’s heart attack symptoms are different. Although chest pain is the most common symptom in both men and women, women are also likely to have other symptoms such as shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain. Because these symptoms vary greatly between men and women, they’re often misunderstood.

Before you pass that jaw pain off as the result of sleeping on it wrong or that lightheadedness as something a snack can fix, understand these as symptoms that might need your attention. These are at least something to talk to your doctor about if they persist.

Women who consider themselves healthy often misdiagnose their own symptoms of a heart attack. That is why the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommend women learn the symptoms of heart disease and stroke. You should also know your numbers, live a heart-healthy lifestyle and be aware of your own risk factors of heart disease.

Even if you aren’t a fashionista, or even know what “fashionista” means, you can still embrace the message… and the Red Dress. Talk to your girlfriends, your sisters, your daughters, your mothers, your wives… and your doctor about heart health and the signs and symptoms of heart disease in women.

When we wear red, or Go Red, we are saying heart health is important and we want to do something about it. So Go Red for Women all month long.

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Hosanna Fletcher has lived in Newton County since 2005. With a Masters in Public Health and another in Sociology, she has worked on a variety of community development projects, led training sessions for Lay Health Advisors, conducted and evaluated health risk assessments, and designed and implemented employee wellness programs. Hosanna and her husband Kevin, a Newton County native, have been married for 15 years this October. They have two children — Miranda, 11, and Thomas, 3.