Wear Red Day for Heart Health - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Wear Red Day for Heart Health

Memorial employees dress in red to support the cause. Memorial employees dress in red to support the cause.

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - February is American Heart Month and today is National Wear Red Day. It's an effort to make women more aware of the dangers of heart disease.

First lady Laura Bush, using the president's weekly radio address, spoke to the nation about the seriousness of the problem.

"By now, many women who've tuned in may be tempted to tune out," she said. "A few years ago, I might have. Like many women, I assumed heart disease was a 'man's disease,' but the heart truth is this: that heart disease is the leading cause of death among American women."

Doctors in Savannah and their female patients are encouraging more women to guard their heart health. One Savannah woman is setting an example, one step at a time.

"I thought I was having a panic attack," said Anne Hodges.

Five months after suffering a heart attack, Anne Hodges is walking faithfully on a treadmill at Memorial University Medical Center's Heart and Vascular Institute and is on the road to recovery.

"I was trying to be as healthy as I could," she said. "Eat right. Live right and everything, so I was pretty shocked."

Hodges is one of the lucky ones. She refused to ignore her symptoms and got help. Today, she is alive to tell her story.

"The fact is cardiovascular disease is the cause of death in the majority of women in this country," explained Dr. James W. Miller, the cardiology director of the Heart and Vascular Institute. "Breast cancer is a devastating disease with a tremendous emotional impact early in life, but many fewer people die of breast cancer than die of heart disease."

Memorial University Medical Center is trying to reverse that. Today, they were raising awareness about the dangers of heart disease by taking take part in National Wear Red Day.

"I think it's wonderful," said Hodges. "I think preventative [medicine] is better than to have to cure [heart disease]. It's a lot better to do that."

Doug Webb, who underwent a triple bypass surgery last year, is encouraging the women in his life to take care of their hearts.

"I think it's very important," he said, "because your kids, next to your wife, are probably the most important people in your life. You want to make sure they live a healthy lifestyle."

For many people, heart disease shows up later in life, but the time to start taking care of your heart is now, especially if you have family history or risk factors for heart disease.

"If they're hypertensive, if they're diabetic, if they're overweight, if they're sedentary, if they're smoking, those are all things they need to change and control so they don't develop heart disease later in life," said Dr. Miller.

Anne Hodges and other survivors are thankful for the chance to make those changes now and hope others will follow their healthy examples sooner, rather than later.

"I'm very thankful," said Hodges. "I thank the Lord and Memorial University Medical Center for getting me where I am today."

If you have risk factors for heart disease, Dr. Miller recommends you see your doctor and start modifying your lifestyle. He suggests making changes one at a time. For example, you might start by quitting smoking, then work on losing weight, before making other changes.

Reported by: Liz Flynn, lflynn@wtoc.com

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