This time last year, Arianna Huffington and I co-hosted the first Women in Media luncheon in New York City. It was a wonderful event, bringing together such influential national media members as Erica Hill, Rebecca Jarvis, Norah O'Donnell, Dr. Nancy Snyderman and Susan Spencer to shine a spotlight on women and heart disease.
As the women shared their touching, sometimes deeply-personal stories of how heart disease disrupted their lives, Arianna and I sensed the power and energy in the room. These powerful stories seemed to unite us, perhaps because the themes were more universal than the speakers might have thought. Each of us listening saw a little of ourselves in each of them.
Arianna and I recognized this as an opportunity to have a more profound impact. Together, we could -- no, should -- use whatever influence we have to touch more women, and to focus their attention on this vital issue of women and heart disease.
Many wonderful connections were made that day, including an expanded relationship between the Huffington Post and the American Heart Association that has enabled us to amplify our messaging on this issue, and indeed, the larger issue of health, prevention and wellness.
Just last Wednesday, a panel of cardiologists, fitness experts and more gathered at Huffington Post Media Group headquarters to discuss how far we've come.
I'm excited to say the discussion continues this week with a series of posts from a diverse group of women with unique, deep insights: moms who are also survivors, an Olympic gold medalist, media members and more, including the president of the American Heart Association.
Look for two stories per day, culminating Friday (Feb. 7), which is the day we ask all Americans to Wear Red. As President Obama wrote last week in his proclamation declaring February as American Heart Month, we use National Wear Red Day to symbolize our "solidarity with those struggling with heart disease and in acknowledgement of the hardworking health care professionals who provide life-saving treatment, research, and advice." Be on the lookout for TV anchors and even buildings and national landmarks to turn red in our honor.
Heart disease is far and away the No. 1 killer of Americans, claiming more lives than anything else, including all forms of cancer combined. And despite the perception that heart disease is what happens to older men, the reality is that more women die of heart disease than men. The numbers are stark: While 1 of every 30 female deaths is from breast cancer, 1 in 3 is from heart disease.
Hopefully you already know this. Because for the past 10 years, the American Heart Association has been helping women understand their risks for heart disease and take action to stop it through our Go Red For Women movement.
Since Go Red began in 2004, research shows that more than 627,000 women's lives have been saved thanks to increased awareness. Another wonderful statistic is that 9 of 10 women involved have gone on to make a positive change in their heart health.
Women have been taking charge of their health -- and we are excited about the opportunity to help even more women.
Many strive to lose weight through diet and exercise, and others aim to stop smoking. Changes can be as small as trading soda for a glass of water with lunch, or as large as Christie Thompson watching our "Just A Little Heart Attack" starring Elizabeth Banks and then recognizing a month later that she was having a heart attack.
"Heart disease was never on my radar," Christie said last week. "Nobody in my family had it, and I was in great shape. My pain was minimal, too, but it was unusual. Had I ignored it and gone to bed, I may not have gotten up the next morning."
Three weeks later, Christie danced at her daughter's wedding.
In 2013, Christie was a national volunteer for Go Red For Women, frequently sharing her story.
"My favorite thing to tell people is that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, because most people have no clue," she said. "I didn't know it until just before my heart attack. That's why I tell people, 'Always be aware that heart disease can happen to you, too.'"
Christie became aware of the "Just A Little Heart Attack" video because her sister-in-law cared enough to share it with her family and friends. I hope you share the video and more about the risks of heart disease with the women who matter in your lives -- and with the men who love them. For instance, you might want to pass along this week's HuffPost series of first-person columns. I hope you'll join me in enjoying them all:
- Julia Manning, a mom, nurse and cardiac arrest survivor
- Erika Perez, a mom and heart attack survivor
- Maria Simon, certified fitness trainer for "Dale Con Ganas" (Spanish version of "Biggest Loser")
- Susan Spencer, Woman's Day Editor-in-Chief
- Dr. Jennifer Mieres, cardiologist and Emmy-nominated producer for "A Woman's Heart" documentary
- Teresa Rodriguez, Univision anchor who became the widowed mother of two following her husband's fatal heart attack
- Dana Vollmer, who overcame a heart problem to become a gold-medal winning Olympic swimmer
- Tia Timpson, who went from a stroke at 20 to a wheelchair to walking a 5K, all within a year
- Martine Reardon, Chief Marketing Officer of Macy's, the national sponsor of Go Red For Women
- Mariell Jessup, cardiologist and American Heart Association President