Heart disease is the biggest killer of women in the U.S. But women and racial and ethnic minorities are less likely to take action when they suspect a heart problem than are white, middle-aged men. A red-letter event on Saturday aimed to reduce that disparity.
Called “A Modern Tea: Time to Love Your Heart,” the event drew 200 women (and a few men) to the Lawn Club, almost all of them dressed in red. A “red dress fashion show” and heart-healthy lunch were on the program, along with several other activities.
“Today our goal was to present heart health information in a way that’s fun and exciting,” said Tressa Spears-Jackson (pictured), executive director of the Community Health Network Foundation. “We have massage, aroma therapy, blood pressure screening, free heart-healthy cookbooks, makeup demonstrations and a heart boutique” where women could buy or make their own jewelry (such as the two women pictured above).
Spears-Jackson said the planning committee reached out to community health center staff, the Chamber of Commerce, Greek sororities, social service organizations, and the American Heart Association to inform women of the event.
Janet Parkosewich (pictured), who holds a doctorate in nursing and does research at Yale-New Haven Hospital on women’s perception of risk for heart attack, gave the keynote speech during lunch. She said her goal was to let her audience know that treatment for a heart attack is time-dependent. “The American Heart Association has published guidelines where people experiencing symptoms of a heart attack should take no more than five minutes to recognize their symptoms and then call 911.” She said in fact, it takes most people 120-130 minutes (or more than two hours). She said 60 percent of Americans experiencing a heart attack die before reaching the hospital.
One problem is that women, African Americans, Latinos and diabetics delay longer than white men.
“Women delay because they don’t perceive that they’re at risk. The women more likely to know they’re at risk know what their risk factors are, such as diabetes or hypertension or smoking or obesity; they knew another woman who had a heart attack; they talked to their physicians about their heart health and their concerns; they were aware of the symptoms that women specifically may experience; and they get good primary care.”
She also noted that a stranger is much more likely to urge someone experiencing symptoms to go to the emergency room than is a loved one, especially a spouse, because the stranger has no emotional attachment. “From a family perspective, it’s not knowing that women are at risk for having a heart attack. Also, a stranger doesn’t worry if a woman gets mad at them for saying she should go to the hospital.”
The event was presented by Community Health Network of Connecticut, Inc., Yale-New Haven Hospital and Citizens Bank.