OKLAHOMA CITY -- More women die of heart disease, stroke, and all other cardiovascular disease than the next five leading causes of death combined, including all cancers. In support of the American Heart Association's efforts to improve heart health, State Senators Kim David, Judy Eason-McIntyre, Constance Johnson and Susan Paddack wore red Thursday.
Participants came from all around the state to the AHA's annual Go Red for Women event at the State Capitol to visit with lawmakers and raise awareness of the effects of Heart Disease and Stroke on women, especially in the state.
"Diagnosis of heart disease presents a greater challenge in women than in men. Awareness of early symptoms in women needs to be heightened as one-third of women do not know that heart disease is the number one killer of women," alarms Marilyn Davidson, Government Relations Director for the American Heart Association.
After suffering a family loss to cardiovascular disease, Sen. David stressed the importance of people educating themselves about the disease.
"This is a wonderful event. I'm all too aware of how devastating this disease can be. I lost my mother to heart disease at the age of 52 and I'm very concerned about the heath of women in the state of Oklahoma," said David, R-Porter. "A woman dies every minute from heart disease; and sadly most of those deaths could be prevented through proper nutrition and exercise. That's why educational programs like the Go Red for Women campaign are so important."
In 2007, Oklahoma had the 4th highest death rate from cardiovascular disease in the country. With a family history of heart disease, Sen. Eason McIntyre encouraged Oklahomans, especially those in the black community, to take control of their health.
"Over 30 percent of our state's population, or nearly 12,000 Oklahomans, died from heart disease and stroke in 2007. That is mind boggling and unacceptable," said Eason McIntyre, D-Tulsa. "As an African American woman, I'm especially disturbed by trends in my community which suffer from the highest rates of cardiovascular disease nationally making up nearly half of all cases. We must educate ourselves as well as our family and friends. This disease can be prevented with simply healthy lifestyle changes."
According the AHA, nationally over 47 percent of black women and nearly 45 percent of black men suffered from cardiovascular disease in 2007 compared to less than 34 percent of white females and 37 percent of white males.
Sen. Johnson, who was the 2008 national Ambassador for the Power to End Stroke Awareness Campaign, went on to discuss the prevalence of stroke in the state.
"Stroke is the third leading cause of death in our country, killing more than 150,000 Americans each year and approximately 2,200 Oklahomans. It's also the leading cause of adult disabilities in our state because people don't recognize the signs of stroke quick enough to prevent permanent physical and mental damage," said Johnson, D-Oklahoma County. "I've worked hard trying to help raise awareness in my community as African Americans are twice as likely to have strokes as European Americans, and they're also more likely to die from them. Education is key to putting an end to these senseless deaths."
Johnson praised the Oklahoma State Department of Health's creation of the Act FAST! campaign to educate citizens about the disease. FAST! stands for Face droop, Arm drift down, Speech Slurred and Time to call 911.
The AHA kicks off its nationwide campaign with Wear Red Day each year on the first Friday in February. Being that the state Legislature is not in session then Oklahoma affiliates hold their Capitol event during Mother's Day week.
"Being that cardiovascular disease kills more women than any other disease, it's only fitting to have this special educational event during the week when we're focused on those women in our lives that we love the most," said Paddack, D-Ada. "Give the special women in your life the gift of knowledge - educate them about their risk and how they can prevent cardiovascular disease and celebrate many more happy Mother's Days."