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February 5, 2014

Paint the town — and the country — red for heart health awareness

By Tiffany Esshaki
C & G Staff Writer

What does it mean to ‘Go Red?’

Get your numbers:
As your doctor to check your blood pressure and cholesterol.

Own your lifestyle:
Stop smoking, lose weight, exercise and eat healthy.

Realize your risk:
We think it won’t happen to us, but heart disease kills 1 in 3 women — more than all forms of cancer combined.

Educate your family:
Make healthy food choices for you and your family.
Teach your kids the importance of staying active.

Don’t be silent:
Tell every woman you know that heart disease is
our No. 1 killer.

Provided by American Heart Association

Sure, you can wear your heart on your sleeve. But as long as that sleeve is red, you’re doing your part to raise awareness of heart disease.

February is American Heart Month, and the American Heart Association makes the most of the occasion by packing as many fun and inspiring events as possible into the next few weeks.

Among those is the annual Go Red for Women luncheon, to be held on Valentine’s Day at MGM Grand Detroit. The celebration will include a full docket of activities, including speakers — such as award-winning actress and heart attack survivor Rosie O’Donnell — demonstrations and a silent auction that’s not to be missed, according to event chair Sharyl Smith, vice president of marketing and planning for McLaren Macomb.

“This year is going to be really fun. As the chair, that’s one of the things that I wanted from the beginning of planning to the end. I wanted this year to be really fun. It can be meaningful, but if people enjoy themselves, it will also be memorable,” said Smith.

And that’s what the AHA is going for — awareness of symptoms, risk factors and preventative measures for heart disease, so ladies can guard themselves against the No. 1 killer of women in the United States. If the month-long Go Red for Women campaign can educate even a few women on the staggering statistics they need to know as motivation to protect their heart health, all the effort was worth it, Smith said.

“I don’t know of anybody who doesn’t know someone affected by heart disease. Somebody knows someone who is either living with heart disease, had a heart attack and survived or maybe has risk factors they’re trying to manage,” she said. “It all goes under that same heading of heart disease. If it didn’t, it wouldn’t be the No. 1 killer in the country.”

In fact, Smith herself lost both of her parents to heart disease. Those losses inspire her all the more to continue educating others on how to care for themselves.

The same goes for Annette Sciberras, registered nurse and administrative manager with Beaumont Health System’s Cardiac Progressive Care program. The Dearborn resident is among 11 women chosen nationally to represent the Go Red for Women campaign.

Heart disease has been a presence in Sciberras’ life since she was young, she said, having been born with congenital heart disease. Now, as a cardiac nurse and the face of Go Red for Women, she works daily to “raise her voice,” as she said, to stress the importance of women’s heart health.

“This has given me more of an opportunity to share my story and create awareness,” she said, explaining that she gets inspiration from her mother and daughter to continue her mission. “This is near and dear to my heart, and I’m very fortunate to be a part of the Go Red movement.”

Sciberras is especially excited to take part in the Girlfriends Go Red event Feb. 20 at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak. Guests are invited to slip on their favorite red shoes for a fun and educational night packed with dance and cooking demos, health screenings, prizes and more 6-8 p.m.

“There’s going to be an ‘Ask Your Doctor’ station, dance demonstrations and all kinds of stuff,” she said. “It’s going to be a great opportunity to come out on that day and learn about nutrition, healthy diet and lifestyle. We want people to know their numbers: blood pressure, cholesterol, (body mass index). We just want people to learn a little bit on how they can take care of themselves.”

Smith agreed. Her mother died suddenly of a heart attack in 2007, and Smith said she knows that her mother probably had symptoms she never spoke about because she was so busy with other things in her life. Now, Smith and so many others are doing their part to make sure that doesn’t happen to others. But there’s a long way to go: According to the AHA, Michigan loses 41 women every day to heart disease.

“Every year, when I write a check to the American Heart Association at the luncheon, I write my mother’s name in the memo line,” said Smith. “I want to bring awareness so we can talk to our daughters or sisters or mothers. We probably all kind of know what to do in a broad sense, as far as diet and exercise; we hear it every day. But (the campaign) also comes with a message of prioritizing yourself. As women, when it cwomes to our own health, we don’t worry about it as much. We take care of our children, our husbands (first). We’ve got to stop that.”

The Go Red for Women month-long campaign kicks off Feb. 7 throughout the nation on Wear Red Day. Supporters are encouraged on that day to dress in red to promote heart disease awareness.

To learn more about the many events happening in southeast Michigan to celebrate the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign, go to heart.org/semi.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Tiffany Esshaki at tesshaki@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1095.