By: Stacey Goldberg
When most people think of February, red hearts for Valentine’s Day come to mind. For millions of other Americans and the organizations supporting them, this month is about a different type of heart: the human one. February is American Heart Month and is intended to bring awareness to a disease that is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States.
That’s right- heart disease is also the leading cause of death for women. Most people do not know the signs and symptoms, which can be very different in women. WomenHeart, the leading voice for over 48 million American women living with or at risk of heart disease, is changing that through creating a community of support, advocacy, and education for women.
During the month of February, WomenHeart is helping to raise awareness about risk factors, prevalence, and prevention of heart disease in women. We interviewed their team to learn more about their #HappyHeart campaign and partnerships that are helping them to have an even further impact on saving lives this month and beyond.
What is WomenHeart doing to encourage all women to take charge of their heart health during National Heart Month? #HappyHeart is a Facebook campaign that inspires digital audiences to get moving and raise awareness about heart disease risk factors. The campaign gives you the chance to showcase your favorite activity – whether it be dancing, yoga, cooking, gardening, or even walking the dog. Participants submit a short video clip of them doing their favorite activity, with a caption of why it makes their heart happy.
The fifth annual #29DaysOfHeart online campaign aims to raise awareness around heart disease in African-American women during both Black History Month and Heart Month. African American women have a higher risk of heart disease yet are less aware that it is their number one killer.
Medicare and More Facebook Live – This educational activity panel discussion was presented by a clinician and WomenHeart Champion. Topics included how to appeal and better understand insurance decisions.
National Knitting Circles to knit HeartScarves—HeartScarves was developed in response to feelings of fear and isolation WomenHeart Champions were experiencing as a result of their heart disease. These handmade gifts are brought to heart patients within hospitals, to offer support and comfort for women during their recovery and beyond.
The National Hospital Alliance is a collaborative partnership between WomenHeart and leading hospitals nationwide committed to advancing women’s heart health. Through our National Hospital Alliance our Champions are working with hospitals all across the country on Heart Month.
Women often experience different heart attack symptoms then men. How can women recognize these symptoms and take appropriate action? Discomfort, tightness, uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing in the center of the chest lasting more than a few minutes, or comes and goes; crushing chest pain; pressure or pain that spreads to the shoulders, neck, upper back, jaw, or arms; dizziness or nausea; clammy sweats, heart flutters, or paleness. Change the things we can control, like smoking, diet and exercise.This is why it is so important for a woman to advocate for herself. Don’t be shy – it’s your heart and your life!
How can a strong support network lead to better recoveries for women heart disease survivors? Research shows that women who have close family relationships and good friendships make better recoveries from heart events. WomenHeart offers a range of support services to help women heart disease survivors live healthier lives. Through WomenHeart’s support programs and services, women form a special bond and can freely share information and stories of hope and survival. Our local support networks provide women the critical peer-to-peer support, information and encouragement that you need. Led by trained patient volunteers, more than 100 support groups meet monthly all over the country. WomenHeart offers support groups, HeartSisters Online (virtual support groups) and SisterMatch (one-on-one support).
How can women with heart disease advocate for themselves to receive the quality of care and treatment they deserve? Access to affordable health insurance, heart disease research, ensuring women are included in medical research, and more are all made possible through laws and public policies. WomenHeart works to advance federal policies that support women living with and at risk of heart disease, and we train and encourage women to be advocates for themselves. It’s important that you be empowered to make your voice heard, whether it be with your doctor, insurance provider, or elected official. We are here to provide the resources and tools you need to be most effective.
WomenHeart celebrates its 20th anniversary this month. How will the organization build upon what it started back in 1999? We will build upon what was started in 1999 by continuing to train women living with heart disease to empower and educate thousands of other women who are at risk, support those who’ve been diagnosed, and advocate for heart health nationwide. We have grown into an invaluable community – all with the mission to save lives.