A few years ago my girlfriends and I decided to take control of our health, and we started out by jogging in the park together -- checking our odometers, keeping pace with each other, and competing about who had the best heart rate. We also shared a lot of laughs -- always the best medicine -- while we cared for ourselves, our health and each other.
Believe it or not, heart disease affects more than one in three women -- and kills more than 500,000 women -- each year in this country, making it the leading cause of death among women. (Are you surprised by that? I sure was -- I thought cancer was the leading cause.) So this Friday, I'm getting active in the fight against women's heart disease and taking part in the National Wear Red Day, a campaign created by the American Heart Association's "Go Red for Women" movement that is designed to raise awareness about women's heart health.
This is somewhat personal to me, because my father died of heart failure. Ever since then, I have been acutely aware of heart health, and the importance of diet and exercise. But many women still think of heart disease as a men's health issue, so they're not on alert for signs for potential heart problems.
A few nights ago, I sent an email to my pal Dr. Oz about this. He's appeared on my weekly web casts and has become my own personal Yoda for all things medical! I asked Oz about what women should look out for, heartwise, and, as always, his response went straight to the point:
"The #1 symptom to watch out for," he wrote, "is shortness of breath, especially if it occurs during activities that don't ordinarily bother you. This is your body's way of giving you a warning. To guard against heart troubles, I recommend DHA Omega 3 fats -- which are found in fish oils. They're the most important supplements."
I also contacted Barbra Streisand, who has become a front line soldier in the fight against women's heart disease, launching a $10 million fundraising campaign on behalf of the Women's Heart Center at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles. As Barbra pointed out to me, "Twenty-five to fifty percent of women don't fit male patterns for heart disease. Women having a heart attack, for example, don't always experience what men usually do, like chest pain associated with exertion. Instead, they may feel chest pressure, indigestion, shortness of breath, or fatigue. Women need to know this."
Barbra's knowledge of the subject and commitment to the issue continue to amaze me.
So, I urge you to keep the conversation alive -- and possibly help save a life -- by wearing red this Friday. You can tell your friends that you heard it from me -- and, besides, everyone looks great in red!
For more information, please visit www.goredforwomen.org.