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First lady Patricia Blagojevich urges women to get the facts about heart disease during Women's Healthy Heart Month in Illinois          Send a link to a friend

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for Illinois women

[FEB. 1, 2007]  SPRINGFIELD -- In anticipation of National Wear Red Day on Feb. 2, First Lady Patricia Blagojevich urged people, especially women, to learn about the signs, symptoms and treatments for heart disease, as well as the steps they can take to ensure good heart health. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for American women and claims the lives of almost 500,000 women a year, or about one woman every minute. The latest statistics show that more than 14,500 women in Illinois died from heart disease in 2004. National Wear Red Day is a day when Americans nationwide should wear red to show their support for women's heart disease awareness. Governor Rod R. Blagojevich proclaimed February "Women's Healthy Heart Month."

"Too many mothers, sisters, aunts and daughters are lost every year to heart disease. That's why we're encouraging everyone in Illinois to wear red on Friday," said Mrs. Blagojevich. "By raising awareness about heart disease and teaching women how they can lower their risk of having a heart attack, hopefully, we can save lives."

"As we increase awareness of heart disease among women, we also need to make sure women are taking their risk of this disease personally. Women need to take the information they learn about heart disease and apply it to themselves and look at what risk factors they may have," said Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. "We want every woman to be aware of heart disease, to know the causes and realize what risk factors they have so they can work to reduce them."

"We greatly appreciate Gov. Blagojevich's efforts to engage Illinoisans in National Wear Red Day for Women. Heart disease is the number one killer of women, and while more women than ever are aware of its devastating impact, we still have much work to do in Illinois. Key partners, such as the State, help us spread the message to women across Illinois to 'go red' and take active steps toward a healthier lifestyle," stated Peggy Jones, Senior Director of Statewide Alliances and Cultural Health Initiatives for the American Heart Association.

There are many factors that can increase the chance of developing heart disease. While some risk factors cannot be controlled -- such as age, family medical history and race -- there are several that can be controlled, including:

  • Tobacco use

  • Physical inactivity

  • Poor nutrition

  • Overweight/obesity

  • High blood pressure

  • High cholesterol

  • Diabetes

By making some of the following changes, a person can help reduce their risk of heart disease:

  • Stop smoking.

  • Be more physically active.

  • Eat a well-balanced diet (high in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fats and cholesterol).

  • Maintain a proper weight.

  • Check blood pressure regularly.

  • Visit a health care provider for a regular medical checkup.

  • Reduce stress and tension.

  • Limit intake of alcohol and caffeine.

Some heart attacks are sudden and intense, but most of them start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people affected aren't sure what's wrong and wait too long before getting help. If someone experiences one or more of the following warning signs, don't wait longer than five minutes before calling for help. Call 911 and get that person to a hospital.

  • Uncomfortable pressure squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back

  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach

  • Shortness of breath along with, or before, chest discomfort

  • Cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness

As with men, women's most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. However, women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.

Gov. Blagojevich has made women's health a priority in Illinois and strongly supports the Illinois Department of Public Health Office of Women's Health and its administration of three specific cardiovascular programs: Heart Smart for Women, Heart Smart for Teens and the Illinois WISEWOMAN Program.

Heart Smart for Women is a 12-week education program where participants learn the benefits of exercise and nutrition as well as how to reduce their cardiovascular risk. Last year more than 2,100 women participated in the program, and almost 60 percent of those women reported improved nutrition and/or physical activity levels.

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Heart Smart for Teens is a nine-week education program to educate adolescent girls about the risk factors of cardiovascular disease and teach them the importance of healthy diets and physical activity. Last year more than 3,000 girls completed the program, and 78 percent of those girls reported improved knowledge about nutrition and physical activity.

The Illinois WISEWOMAN Program is designed to help women reduce their risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes through screenings, physical activity and healthy eating habits. This research program is offered in 21 Illinois counties and targets women in the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program.

Women can learn about the impact of heart disease on women at a free health fair later this month. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is helping sponsor a free health fair at the LuxeHome Merchandise Mart in Chicago for National Women's Heart Day on Feb. 16. The health fair is presented by the Sister to Sister: Everyone Has A Heart Foundation, Inc., which was founded in 2000 to increase awareness about women's heart disease and to encourage heart-healthy lifestyles among women.

For more information on heart disease or women's health issues, you can visit the Illinois Department of Public Health website at, or call the Women's Health-Line at 1-888-522-1282.

The text of the Governor's proclamation designating February Women's Healthy Heart Month follows:

WHEREAS, heart disease is the leading cause of death for American women, claiming the lives of almost 500,000 women per year, at a rate of almost one per minute; and

WHEREAS, in Illinois alone, the year 2004 saw 14,534 deaths in women due to diseases of the heart; and

WHEREAS, the majority of women are not aware of their risk factors for a heart attack, nor are they aware of the signs and symptoms of a heart attack;

WHEREAS, risk factors for a heart attack are: tobacco use, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, diabetes and obesity;

WHEREAS, symptoms of heart attack are: uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of the 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, stomach; shortness of breath along with, or before, chest discomfort; and cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness;

WHEREAS, it is critical that we, as a country and state, work to empower women and increase their awareness of the many things they can do to reduce their risk of heart disease;

WHEREAS, this includes exercising regularly, eating healthy meals and snacks, loving their body and taking time for themselves;

WHEREAS, February of each year is nationally recognized as American Heart Month, Go Red for Women, and this year in Illinois, we want to give special emphasis to women's heart health by declaring that February 2007 be Women's Healthy Heart Month; and

WHEREAS, in addition, on February 2, 2007, we are proud to be joining various heart health organizations across the country in encouraging people to wear red in support of the continued efforts to raise awareness of heart disease among women in Illinois:

THEREFORE, I, Rod Blagojevich, Governor of the State of Illinois, do hereby proclaim the month of February 2007 as WOMEN'S HEALTHY HEART MONTH in Illinois, and urge all citizens, especially women, to familiarize themselves with the signs, symptoms and treatments for heart disease, as well as the steps they can take to ensure themselves good heart health.

(Text copied from file received from the Illinois Office of Communication and Information)

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