"The Heart Truth" Provides Fashionable (and Important) Information for Menopausal Women
Almost every woman I know likes to look at fashionable dresses. So it’s special to get a firsthand view of red dresses that have been worn by celebrities such as Katie Couric, Vanessa Williams, Valerie Bertinelli, Heidi Klum, Dara Torres, and Felicity Huffman as well as those worn by first ladies ranging from Laura Bush and Michelle Obama to Mamie Eisenhower and Bess Truman. And while taking in the changing fashions at The Heart Truth exhibit, you also learn that the red dress is the national symbol for women and heart disease awareness. The red dress also serves as the focal point of exhibit, which was created by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. The exhibit currently is showing at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum at Texas A&M University until August 14, 2011.
The Heart Truth exhibit definitely got my attention as well as that of my friend Judy after we visited on Sunday. It turns out that numerous factors, including menopause, can put a woman at risk for heart disease. Some other interesting things I learned from the exhibit include:
- Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women, regardless of race or ethnicity. And two-thirds of women who have heart attacks never fully recover.
- Heart disease is a life-long condition. Procedures may help but the arteries remain damaged. In fact, your blood vessels will steadily worsen unless you change your habits.
- High blood cholesterol (as well as high blood pressure) puts you at risk. The exhibit stated, “Although young women tend to have lower cholesterol levels than young men, between the ages of 45 and 55, women’s levels begin to rise higher than men’s. After age 55, this ‘cholesterol gap’ between women and men becomes still wider.” The higher a woman’s blood cholesterol level, the greater chance she has of developing heart disease.
The exhibit encourages women to ask the following questions of you doctor:
- What is your risk for heart disease?
- What is your blood pressure? What does it mean? What do you need to do?
- What are your cholesterol numbers (total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and triglycerides)? What does it mean? What do you need to do?
- What is your body mass index (BMI) and waist measurement? Do these mean that you need to lose weight to improve your health?
- What is your blood sugar level? Are you at risk of diabetes?
- Are there other screenings for heart disease that you need?
- How can you quit smoking?
- How much physical activity do you need?
- What is a heart healthy eating plan?
- How can you tell if you’re having a heart attack? If you think you are having one, what should you do?
Some of the answers we can expect to hear include making lifestyle changes (quit smoking, follow a heart-healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight, and be physically active). You also may need to take medications that control blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.
As we enter menopause, we need to be more aware of our heart health and not take it for granted. The Heart Truth exhibit provides information that helps you realize what’s at stake (as well as the red dresses you want to have eventually in your closet)!