Heart disease does not discriminate

To celebrate women’s health, our office was awash in red today.

It’s true, despite the vigor of the pink-ribbon campaign, heart disease remains the number one cause of death for women.  That stinks, because like in men, death from heart disease is so preventable.

Notwithstanding my free socks, in promoting heart health, I am redder than most.

But…

I’ve always felt conflicted about the whole February GoRed for women campaign. It’s nice and all, the dresses sure look snazzy, and the campaign does transiently raise awareness.  All positives for sure.

But the 1970’s notion that women are magically protected from heart problems based on their sex seems a bit outdated, and perhaps even contrived by those who benefit from such heightened awareness.  Are Macy’s and Merck just that benevolent?

Come on, how many women out there still believe their feminine-ness protects them from heart disease? How many don’t know that women can have vague symptoms of heart attack?

To me, the message about preventing heart disease is gender neutral.  Sorry.  Both women and men benefit from eating well, not smoking, exercising daily and paying attention to basic and well-known medical matters like blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Maybe I feel this way because women have kicked my butt on the bike, in the pool and in the classroom.  I don’t see them as meek, or dumb.  In fact, it’s more the opposite.  My grandmother outworked my grandfather, my mother outworked my Dad, and my wife surely outworks and out-thinks me.  Just ask her.

If I was a woman, the GoRed campaign might feel patronizing.

JMM

(Maybe these views reflect why I barely passed that Ob-Gyn rotation.)

5 comments

  1. This is really interesting and I think you have a point. The one thing Go Red for Women would seem to have going for it is lack of awareness that women have heart attacks too. But I agree with you, I think most of us know that by now. Maybe the point is we’re all so freaked out about breast cancer that we forget heart disease actually kills more women. But I also think you may have hit on a bit of the male/female yin/yang here. Maybe women are all over this the same way we’re all over other group/sharing things, from book clubs to support groups, in a way men typically aren’t.

  2. I agree, but the whole “put a pink or red ribbon on it and turn it into fashion” seems to work and I guess whatever it takes to get the message out, is worth it. I am cyclist (road), have been for 20 years and over that time have taken pride in my low resting heart rate and my ability to outlast (not outsprint unfortunately) many others on a bike. Until last week and a significant syncope episode, I had no idea that my well-trained heart could also be a negative. I’m presently getting the typical tests done and keeping my fingers crossed that it’s nothing serious. As I’ve been reading and researching syncope and the athletes heart syndrome, I’m amazed that given that heart disease “out-kills” all cancers why the risk isn’t more publicized and understood. Women weren’t even included in research studies until after 2000 and still aren’t studied nearly as much as men. So guess the patronizing “go red” campaign is better than nothing.

    Great blog, btw.

  3. Being both a heart patient and a breast cancer survivor, I see the vast benefit of having a “Go Red” day. But like you, I wish that it wasn’t gender specific and apparently so do many of my male co-workers at the international shipping company that I work for. For our group picture this year, the men in red out-numbered the women. A day once a year to bring it top of mind to everyone to take care of their hearts and not ignore symptoms is a good idea, it just doesn’t need to be genderized.

  4. Thanks you all. Good points, and I hear you.

    Women live longer than men in large part because of the durability of the feminine heart. This yin/yang book has a bunch of chapters–and not all of them relate to the protection of hormones. Undoubtedly, the yin of male hearts could learn much from the yang of the female heart. Stress management could be chapter 1.

    In heart disease prevention, the western world has yet to find a “tipping point.” Despite all of the cardiac techno-wizardry, heart disease marches on. It’s a tragic paradox that our number one killer is at the same time our most preventable disease. Maybe women will figure this out first. Then they could use their magic powers over men to get them eating better, exercising more and stressing less.

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