It’s National Wear Red Day! Local doctor on raising awareness for heart disease in women

Be sure to add a little bit of red to today's outfit!
Published: Feb. 4, 2022 at 5:50 AM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Friday is National Wear Red Day, a yearly campaign to raise awareness about heart disease in women.

The first Friday each February, American Heart Month, millions come together for one common goal: the eradication of heart disease and stroke.

One in three women die of heart disease or stroke, a statistic that nearly half of all women do not know. In fact, cardiovascular disease and stroke is the leading cause of death and illness in women in the United States.

“We know that the risk from cardiovascular disease and stroke in women is greater than the risk for all cancers combined,” said Dr. Linda Calhoun with Novant Health Heart & Vascular Institute - Wilmington Main. “It’s important to have days where we’re really trying to increase awareness.”

One of the big takeaways: heart disease and stroke can be preventable. According to, heart disease and stroke are 80% preventable.

Calhoun said it’s essential to know your risk factors.

“Knowing risk factors, you know, genetics is one that we really can’t change, but there are lots of modifiable ones. We know that hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, which are really silent killers,” she said. “You wouldn’t know you had these problems unless you saw a provider, you had your blood pressure checked, you knew your lipid panel, you knew your hemoglobin A1C — a lot of people have abnormal ones but they’re never addressed.”

WECT’s Frances Weller interviewed Ashley Miller with the American Heart Association who said women need to be aware that their symptoms may be different from those commonly experienced by men. It’s because they are different that they often go unnoticed.

“Symptoms like jaw pain, pain in the upper neck, pain in the upper back, nausea, fatigue for several days,” said Miller.

She hopes that Wear Red Day will alert people to the importance of exercising more; maintaining a healthy diet and healthy weight; getting blood pressure, cholesterol and A1C checked by a doctor.

“Small changes can lead to big differences,” said Miller.

People can make lifestyle changes to modify their risk factors.

“Not eating a lot of prepared or fast foods, which may be really high in cholesterol, salt and sugar, and trying to develop a regular exercise program. Simply walking, which is like my poly pill because it reverses stress and it can help reduce sugar and your blood pressure. Not smoking, not doing illicit drugs,” Calhoun said. “To know your risk factors — I think that’s a big thing because a lot of the risk factors are silent.”

Heart disease and stroke are 80% preventable

Calhoun said raising awareness is especially important now because COVID-19 has put the fight against cardiovascular disease on the back burner.

You might hear the phrase GO RED, which means:

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 healthy.

R: Realize your Risk – Heart disease kills one of three women.

E: Educate your family – Make healthy food choices for you and your family.

D: Don’t be silent – Tell every woman you know that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women.

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