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February 4, 2016

Editorial: Here's why I'll be wearing red on Friday

  • The first Friday of February is National Wear Red Day. People will be wearing red and local landmarks will be lit in red to raise awareness about how to prevent heart disease — the leading killer of women.
    Special to the Journal


    Every year on the first Friday of February, many buildings and landmarks around the Puget Sound are lit up in red. It's a nod to American Heart Month but also serves to sound the alert that heart disease claims the life of about one woman per minute, and that we must take action.

    I am a great advocate for financial health, but throughout the years personal health has always been very important to me. At the age of eight, I was devastated by the loss of my father to a heart attack. My siblings and I were suddenly left without a father, and my mother suddenly faced the challenge of raising seven children as a single parent.

    Heart disease, the leading killer of Americans, has a profound impact on all of us, but not everyone knows that heart disease is the leading killer of women. The good news is that about 80 percent of cardiac events may be prevented with healthy lifestyle changes. That's why this February I encourage you to give yourself permission to take of yourself and your heart health.

    I am currently volunteering as chair of the American Heart Association's Go Red For Women movement. It was launched more than a decade ago when it became evident that more women than men were dying from heart disease. Today, Go Red is the world's largest network of women fighting heart disease and stroke, and raising money for women-related research.

    The first Friday of February is National Wear Red Day. Local landmarks will be lit in red to raise awareness, and you can make a difference too. On Feb. 5 put on a red dress, tie or shirt and share with others why you are wearing red. Make a healthy lifestyle change if you need to. Encourage the women in your life — coworkers, spouses, daughter and friends — to make heart health a priority. All of us at KeyBank will be wearing red that day and if you're part of a company, I encourage your office to participate on National Wear Red Day in solidarity with other women in our community. You can find resources at heart.org/goREDseattle

    What does it mean to “Go Red?” Here's some advice from the American Heart Association.

    • G: Get your numbers. Ask your doctor to check your blood pressure and cholesterol.

    • O: Own your lifestyle. Stop smoking, lose weight, exercise, and eat healthfully.

    • R: Raise your voice. Advocate for women-related research and education.

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

    • D: Don't be silent. Show your support by volunteering or by donating time and money. Heart disease can manifest differently in women than in men, and much research remains to be done on women and cardiovascular health.

    The American Heart Association stresses the importance of an annual doctor's visit, and having a discussion with your doctor about your personal risk factors, which includes family history. Because my father died of heart disease at age 42, I know that I am at risk. Thankfully I have been diligent about my annual check-ups, and although it's not always easy, I try hard to make time for exercise and ways to reduce stress.

    As women, we are notorious for taking care of everyone else and putting ourselves last on the list. That's why I encourage you to give yourself permission to take care of yourself. We can win this fight against heart disease, but it starts with each of us.

    Carol Nelson is Pacific region executive and Seattle market president for KeyBank.

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