RACINE, Wis. — National Wear Red Day unites people across the United States each February during American Heart Month to spread awareness about heart disease, especially its impact on women.
On Feb. 3, Americans will focus on going red for women and community members will take strides to raise awareness for heart disease.
Dr. Desiree M. Dizadji is a cardiologist at Ascension All Saints Hospital, 3803 Spring St.
She is working to ensure that women are educated and taking the preventative steps to ensure their heart health is a priority.
Educating the community
Despite the fact that heart disease (cardiovascular disease, or CVD) is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, many are uneducated about risk factors, prevention and education. It is also responsible for one in five female deaths.
“Most of the patients who have been here (at Ascension) and gone through an event, whether that’s a heart attack or heart surgery, they’ve been exposed to the American Heart Association through the cardiac rehabilitation here at the hospital, where they learned more about prevention and ongoing treatments. But I’d say, in general, the people that aren’t already exposed, don’t have a lot of exposure,” says Dizadji.
Cardiac rehabilitation is a program at the hospital for patients who have had an “acute episode,” typically associated with heart attacks, congestive heart failure, heart stent placement or heart surgery. It’s a comprehensive program with exercise, dietary changes, counseling and mental health services that aid patients.
She’s striving to change the narrative this February and make sure that heart health education is obtainable.
“When I think of ‘Go Red in February’ and women with heart disease, I think what I hope most importantly comes from it (American Heart Month) is more of an awareness of the various types of heart disease, and that people recognize those and the symptoms associated with that and seek help if needed,” says Dizadji.
According to Dr. Dizadji, risk factors can include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, cigarette smoking and a sedentary lifestyle.
People who are facing high sugar levels, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure have the ability to implement changes or make the attempt to control these problems through preventative measures.
“It’s even important to start thinking about these things, really, from the standpoint of prevention. It’s much easier to prevent a problem than it is to treat it later after it’s happened,” says Dizadji.
Read the following article from Ascension Wisconsin about how to prevent heart disease.
Challenges impacting heart hearth
COVID-19 impacting care
“COVID impacted cardiac care significantly since 2020,” says the Ascension Cardiologist.
The pandemic put a pause on prevention education, testing and doctor visits across the nation. COVID-19 infections also contributed to complications such as blood clots, heart attacks impacting young people, and even weakening the heart muscle.
Additionally, certain issues are affecting people who are experiencing long-haul COVID-19. These individuals are also facing pulmonary complications or some cardiac complications beyond the acute illnesses of COVID-19.
These challenges are prevalent for both men and women, especially those who are minorities.
Learn more about COVID-19’s impact on cardiac health by reading A rise in cardiovascular-related deaths: highest among Asian, Black, Hispanic populations.
Now, more than ever, education and prevention are needed for American women. The presence of cardiovascular disease can be surprisingly different, going against stereotypes the public imagines when thinking of heart disease.
“Many of the symptoms are not as dramatic as we might think they might otherwise be. So it’s important to recognize that heart disease comes in all different varieties,” says Dizadji.
Women can face heart attacks, congestive heart failure, heart valve problems, heart rhythm problems, muscle issues and more. These conditions and problems are presenting in younger populations; not just the elderly.
Symptoms could be a mild decrease in exercise capacity, mild shortness of breath, palpitations, fatigue, GI concerns, abdominal pain, or even jaw pain.
Heart disease acknowledgment and recognition
Thinking about heart disease isn’t always easy. Acknowledging the symptoms, receiving help and going through treatment can be difficult.
Dizadji encourages people to have the “willingness to accept those diagnoses.”
She explains that stress, anxiety, and depression can all contribute to cardiac issues. Still, certainly, women with underlying chronic conditions—and cardiac disease in general—can be more prone to depression and anxiety.
“It’s important to treat that (mental health) aspect of it as well, from a prevention standpoint, but also as a secondary development related to their chronic illness.”
Pass on the knowledge: wear red
“Visibility is key to raise awareness for heart disease,” notes Dizadji. “If it helps one person, it’s worth doing.”
Want to help make an impact? Read the following article and plan to wear red on Feb. 3.
Take it one step further and make an appointment to get your heart health checked out. Sharing your experience may be the turning point for others to do the same.