The American Heart Association helped spread awareness about heart disease when it hosted the Go Red For Women Philadelphia Red Dress Dash event.
During the event — which was recently held at 19th and Arch Streets — area men and women donned red and ran 100 yards. Dash participants were comprised of association supporters, heart disease survivors and people who lost loved ones to the disease.
“The whole purpose was to unite women and men in support of the battle against heart disease in women,” says Christina Crews, American Heart Association, communications director.
The dash comes in observance of Women’s Heart Month, which raises awareness of heart health.
According to the American Heart Association, an estimated eight million women in the U.S. are living with heart disease, yet only one in six American women believes that heart disease is her greatest health threat. The association noted that 90 percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease.
Risk factors for heart disease include diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, physical inactivity, obesity and a family history of heart disease. The risk of heart disease and stroke increases with physical inactivity.
Heart attack symptoms include pressure and pain under the breastbone that may extend into the left arm. Some of the symptoms that are more common in women include discomfort in either arm or the neck, jaw, back or stomach; shortness of breath; a cold sweat; nausea and vomiting and light-headedness.
“As women, I think that you have to be selfish about your health. The heart is the core of who we are, so if you don’t take care of your heart, that’s it,” said Crews.
“It’s important for you to remember to pay attention to those symptoms that you may ignore. Our bodies can literally talk to us and tell us when something is not right.”
After losing both her parents to heart disease, Frances Conwell was spurred to start volunteering with the American Heart Association. Conwell was on hand to show her support by participating in the Red Dress Dash event.
“When I thought about it, I was like I need to be here because it (heart disease) had a great impact on my parents and my brother,” said Conwell.
“We’re more impacted as African Americans by a lot of these diseases but we don’t come out to support these things.”
Donna Mobley-Thomas, a lieutenant with the Philadelphia Fire Department, showed support for the Go Red For Women initiative by getting approval for her colleagues to wear the Red Dress Pin — which is a symbol for women fighting heart disease — last Friday. Through her efforts, information packets about heart disease were distributed to all fire stations throughout the city. She is hopeful that colleagues will pass the information on to others.
Mobley-Thomas was born with mitral valve prolapse, a heart problem in which the valve that separates the upper and lower chambers of the left side of the heart does not close properly. Her condition caused her to have shortness of breath, heart palpitations and chest pains.
Four years ago she lost her 40-year-old husband to heart disease, and last year her father died from a heart attack.
For Mobley-Thomas, helping to spread awareness about heart disease by supporting the Go Red For Women campaign is very important.
I thought this was a very important cause that I needed to get involved with,” says Mobley-Thomas, who was also diagnosed with a brain tumor.
“The main focus is to let women know you need to know the warning signs and to talk heed to them. Some people will know them and say there’s nothing wrong with me and immediately go into denial but if you address it quickly, the chances of survival are a lot better,” Mobley-Thomas added.