Red Dresses - and One Particular Test Tube - Put the Focus on Diet, Exercise and Women's Health

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Just one test tube can definitely get your attention!


    My friend Judy and I recently went to “The Heart Truth” exhibit at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum at Texas A&M. First of all, we were impressed by the display of red dresses that had been worn by first ladies and celebrities. We also learned a lot about the risk of heart attacks for women. But three days later, my mind goes back to when we picked up that one test tube.
    Let me set the scene. The exhibit featured an area focused on eating a heart-healthy diet. There was a computer display that offered information of on diet as well as healthy recipes that you could take with you. And over at the side was a display of a variety of test tubes with white gunk in them. It turns out the gunk was the amount of saturated fat in different dishes. Obviously, you could guess what the results would be for one of those breakfast sandwiches that you get at your local fast food restaurant. And the test tube that illustrated the fat content in an order of French fries came as no surprise. But who knew that the level of saturated fat in a chicken Caesar salad would fill up almost an entire test tube. “Oh my gosh,” Judy exclaimed after I asked her to guess that that particular test tube’s source was.

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    That was one of the many important educational “a-ha” moments that you can find in this exhibit. “The Heart Truth” exhibit was created by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute in an effort to get women to realize that heart disease is the number one killer of women. The exhibit’s “hook” is the red dress, which is being used as the national symbol for women and heart disease awareness. Needless to say there are some fabulous red dresses in this exhibit, including those worn by celebrities Heidi Klum, Vanessa Williams, Danika Patrick and Kati Couric, as well as historical ones worn by first ladies such as Laura Bush, Jackie Kennedy, Betty Ford, Barbara Bush, Michelle Obama, Mamie Eisenhower, and Eleanor Roosevelt.


    Now back to that test tube. So if you’re not eating chicken Caesar salads, what should you eat? The exhibit brochure recommends following the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which includes a Food Guide Pyramid. “The Dietary Guidelines tell you to: choose a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and moderate in total fat; choose a variety of grains daily, especially whole grains; choose a variety of fruits and vegetables daily; choose beverages and foods to moderate your intake of sugars; choose and prepare foods with less salt; and if you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation,” one of the exhibit’s brochures stated. In addition, if you have high blood pressure or high normal blood pressure, the exhibit encourages you to adopt a DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grain foods, and lowfat dairy products.”


    Diet wasn’t the only lifestyle choice that was featured in the exhibit; exercise also made an appearance. One of the exhibit’s brochures stated, “Not getting regular physical activity increases your risk for heart disease, as well as other heart disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and overweight. And, for older women especially, physical inactivity increases the chance of developing osteoporosis, which in turn raises the risk of broken bones.”


  • The brochure added, “Regular physical activity is a powerful way to keep your heart healthy. To get benefits, you need only to do about 30 minutes of moderate-level activity on most, and preferably all, days of the week. Examples are brisk walking, gardening, or bike riding. If necessary, you can choose shorter periods of at least 10 minutes each, as long as you total about 30 minutes of activity that day.”

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    If you get a chance to go see “The Heart Truth” exhibit, be sure to do so. (It will be at the Bush Library until August 14, 2011, but I’m sure will travel to another location after that.) And when you go, be sure to look for those test tubes – they can really cause you to rethink your lifestyle choices.

Published On: December 29, 2010