Quick – picture someone at risk for a heart attack. There’s a good chance you thought of an obese, slovenly man with an affinity for fried meats, an unhealthy addiction to sports and plenty of sedentary time on the couch. In other words, a character straight out of a Saturday Night Live “ Bill Swerski’s Superfans” sketch.
“Gentlemen, how was your week? Any heart attacks?”
“I had one.”
“Had a couple.”
With all due respect to the Superfans and their no doubt ongoing health care needs, this image of heart attack victims as predominantly male is outdated and woefully incomplete.
According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States – accounting for about one in four female deaths. Despite this, awareness about the threat to women’s health posed by heart disease remains low. In fact, the CDC reports that only about half of all women correctly identify heart disease as their gender’s number one health threat.
Fortunately, things are changing, and national and local health organizations are leading the way.
A great example of this work is the American Heart Association’s ongoing Go Red for Women campaign. In a recent public service announcement, the campaign puts a different face on heart disease when its “supermom” character, played by actress Elizabeth Banks, encounters Just a Little Heart Attack. It’s a humorous and relatable way to bring needed attention to this important issue.
The next step – moving from awareness to action – requires making sure the tools and supports necessary to empower proactive health improvement are available. To this end, the Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation just launched a new text message campaign to help women reduce their preventable risk factors of heart disease.
Throughout a three-month period, enrollees in the texting program can choose to focus on the goal of lowering their blood pressure, managing their stress or reducing their waist circumference. Once enrolled, texts are sent out each week providing health tips, encouragement, links to online resources and interactive check-ins. The texting service is completely confidential if the participants reply with questions or progress.
To sign up and start getting smart heart tips on your mobile phone, simply text BADGER HEART to 97779. (The program is free, but standard message and data rates may apply).
The text campaign is an extension of WWHF’s existing GrapeVine Project. With support from the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation, GrapeVine partners with volunteer nurses to provide free, one-hour educational sessions throughout the state on health topics that disproportionately affect women, including heart health. GrapeVine reaches 1,500 women annually through a network of more than 125 nurses statewide. Sixty percent of those who attend a GrapeVine session report making a lifestyle change after the event.
Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s corporate foundation is also working with the American Heart Association to help teach more Americans Hands-Only® CPR, so they can be prepared to take action if they witness a cardiac event. According to the American Heart Association, more 350,000 Americans suffer out-of-hospital cardiac arrests every year, and almost 90 percent die because they don’t get immediate CPR. Hands-Only CPR has just two simple steps: 1) Call 9-1-1; and 2) Push hard and fast in the center of the victim’s chest. This short video shows you how.
These heart health campaigns and educational programs are intended to help jumpstart discussions and empower women, not to substitute for regular checkups and doctor-patient relationships. Oh – and if you’re one of those who still shies away from the doctor due to the cost — remember, most health insurance plans cover routine screenings and preventative care at 100 percent. That’s one more excuse crossed off your list and one more reason to get heart smart today.