By Mercy's Courtney Landsberger
ADA, Okla. - It was a sold-out sea of red at the 2nd annual Wear Red for Women Luncheon, sponsored by Mercy Hospital Ada, Oklahoma Heart Hospital and the Chickasaw Nation. 180 women dressed in red filed into the Oak Hills Golf and Country Club to raise awareness for the number one killer of women; heart disease. Among those women was Carol Brendle, who said she wears red because heart disease runs in her family.
“The statistics are scary. I am very aware of the threat and regularly do what I can to monitor my numbers,” Brendle said.
Women like Brendle are among the many reasons Lori Wightman, president of Mercy Hospital Ada, says the event was started.
“We really saw a need education and prevention,” Wightman said. “Helping women understand heart disease and how it can be different in women versus men is very important.”
Recently, the American Medical Association released a landmark statement saying that women are “understudied, underdiagnosed and undertreated” when it comes to heart disease. The statement goes on to say that while it has been known that heart attacks are more deadly in women than in men, women are still unaware of the symptoms of heart attacks. Brenda Head, a registered nurse at Oklahoma Heart Hospital Outpatient Cardiac Rehab, has worked the majority of the last 40 years treating heart disease. A guest speaker at the Wear Red for Women event, she warned women that heart attack symptoms are often overlooked.
“Women are more likely to experience mild yet serious symptoms like jaw pain, shortness of breath, extreme fatigue and pain on the right side of the body,” Head said.
But there is good news – Head said growing evidence and research shows heart disease can be prevented.
“Everyone has it in their power to improve their heart health,” she continued. “We can change whether we smoke. We can change how much we exercise. We can change our cholesterol numbers, our diabetes and our stress levels.”
One of the best ways to improve heart health is by switching to a heart healthy diet. Chef Fernando Acuna has worked at the Oklahoma Heart Hospital for more than a decade and has helped thousands of patients change their lifestyle.
“Oklahoma is a meat and potatoes kind of state, if it’s battered and fried – even better,” Acuna joked. “But there is a way to eat healthy without having to eat boring.”
Acuna recommends using herbs, spices and small amounts of olive oil to liven up dishes. Those in attendance at the Wear Red for Women event were served a dish of grilled chicken topped with pico de gallo, brown rice and fresh sautéed vegetables. Acuna also recommends staying away from restaurants.
“Not only is it expensive, but you also don’t really know what is going into your food,” he said. “Up to 80 percent of the salt you will eat in your lifetime comes from restaurant dishes.”
Kristy Calloway, a nursing instructor at East Central University, said she plans to take what she learned at the Wear Red for Women event and pass it on to the next generation.
“Some of the things we learned today are really great public health messages,” Calloway said. “I can hardly wait to get back in the classroom and teach this to students.”
Liz Klingensmith, vice president of nursing at Mercy Hospital Ada agreed. “It was a wonderful way to educate women about heart disease and the risk,” Klingensmith said. “Heart disease can be scary to think about, but the first thing to do about fear is to get educated.”
In addition to providing beneficial information about heart disease, the event also raised thousands of dollars towards portable automated external defibrillators, or AED’s, in the community. Currently, there are more than 40 AED’s in Ada and surrounding communities, thanks to last year’s Wear Red for Women event and a donation from the Valley View Health and Wellness Foundation.
“We are thrilled with the turnout this year,” said Heather Summers, undersecretary of operations for the Chickasaw Nation Department of Health. “Everyone in the community is really excited about what we’re doing with Mercy and Oklahoma Heart Hospital.”
Plans for 2017’s event are already underway. The event will be held on Feb. 17.