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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
February 4, 2004

Mrs. Bush's Remarks to Women at Heart Truth Event in Miami
Baptist Hospital
Miami, Florida

4:45 P.M. EST

MRS. BUSH: Thank you so much, and thank you for telling your story for us and for your very inspiring words. I'm so pleased to be here at Baptist Hospital of Miami. Dr. Keeley, Dr. Rosenbaum, and all the doctors and nurses here make Baptist a national center of excellence. And thanks to Dr. Cristina Beato, of the Department of Health and Human Services for joining me today. We were in Savannah earlier, where we did a Heart Truth campaign. And I loved having Cristina travel with me, thanks a lot.

We want every woman to know The Heart Truth, which is that heart disease is the leading killer of women in America. The symbol of The Heart Truth is the red dress, which we're either wearing a real red dress, or I'm wearing my red pin, which reminds women about their risk for heart disease. The women on stage with me are wearing red because they want to remind us that women everywhere are at risk. Many of these women learned firsthand. They've survived a heart attack, and they're committed to educating others about prevention. I hope that each of you will do the same when you leave here, and throughout the month of February, which is American Heart Month.

On Monday, President Bush signed a proclamation designating February as American Heart Month, to bring attention to heart disease. The President has also proposed more than $2.4 billion for the National Institutes of Health in his 2005 budget, which just came out this week. There's an increase in this proposal of $65 million, which will help lead to new and better treatments for heart disease.

This is vitally important, as we are all at risk for this disease, especially women. For the last 20 years, more women than men have died of cardiovascular disease in America. Nearly half a million women die every year. In fact, 65,000 more women will die from cardiovascular disease this year than men.

What's most alarming is that most women don't know this. Many believe that cancer is their greatest concern. Yet heart disease kills more women than all cancers combined. Doctors and researchers provide hope that we can control this disease. But when it comes to heart disease, our health is actually in our own hands. Prevention and education can saves lives. You can join us -- everyone in this room -- by spreading the message about heart disease by wearing your best red dress, or your tie, on National Wear Red Day, which is Friday, February 6th. Wear red to work, or to the grocery, and tell everyone you can about the dangers of heart disease.

When you wear red on Friday, you'll literally join an army of women, who are committed to creating awareness, even when they're a continent away. Corporal Tiara Puro, who is stationed in Baghdad with the Utah Army National Guard, read about The Heart Truth campaign, and she was so inspired by the message that she and the other women in her unit started eating better and exercising more. And this Friday, they'll wear red with their uniforms to show that they know The Heart Truth. Corporal Puro said, "I want to spread the word about heart health to women here because it's something we can do good for ourselves as women."

Corporal Puro is right. As wives, mothers and daughters, women spend more time taking care of others than they do of themselves. Some of you are here today because you managed to squeeze an hour out of your day. And you're probably thinking that at this very moment, you should be at the market, on in a board meeting, or making cookies for the soccer team. Oh, we may take time to soak in a hot bath, or get a facial, but these are little perks that make us feel good on the outside. But what I'm talking about is taking care of our health by eating right, exercising and visiting the doctor.

Women love to share advice and information with each other. When a co-worker tells us about a fat-free recipe for double-fudge brownies -- (laughter) -- we race home and try it. But if a friend tells us that heart disease is the leading killer of women, and that we need to get a check-up, we dismiss it and say, "Oh, I'll go later, when I have time."

Maria Sanchez learned the truth about heart disease after she suffered a heart attack at age 50. When Maria awoke with pressure in her chest, she wasn't thinking about a heart attack, even though she had a family history. Maria had been to the hospital twice in the last few months, with a pain in her chest, and numbness in her arm. But the doctors didn't find anything wrong. And they didn't associate her symptoms with heart disease. So Maria didn't worry. But the pain became so bad that Maria called her sister to take her to the hospital. Maria's blood pressure and cholesterol were high, but her EKG was normal. Finally, after a blood test, the doctors confirmed that one of her arteries was completely blocked and she'd suffered a heart attack. Maria had surgery and is doing well today. And I want to thank Maria for sharing her story with us.

Maria says that this has been a wake-up call for her. She said, "I really didn't take care of myself like I should have. When my doctor told me I had high cholesterol, I asked for medicine, instead of changing my diet to control it." Today, Maria eats more fruits and vegetables. She exercises, and she visits her doctor regularly. She encourages her family and her friends to learn their risk. And she tells them that heart disease is often preventable.

In fact, 90 percent of women under the age of 50 who have a heart attack, have at least one risk factor they can control, like weight or smoking. Studies estimate that 83 percent of all cardiac events could be avoided if women exercised, if they ate a healthy diet, if they quit smoking, and if they maintained a healthy weight. But only 3 percent of women in America actually do this. Isn't that amazing?

We all know we should exercise, and we all know our excuses for not doing it. We're too busy, or we're too tired, or we're too confused about how much exercise is enough. But there's one absolute when it comes to exercise, and that is any amount is better than none. Walking is one of my favorite forms of exercise. I love to walk at Camp David, or on the trails at our ranch. So grab a friend, your children, or your dog and go for a walk. With a busy schedule, it's tough to make time for exercise, but I try to walk at least three times a week. And if my mother-in-law, Barbara Bush, can swim 88 laps at a time, the rest of us can surely walk for 30 minutes. (Laughter.)

You can't strengthen your heart if you continue to smoke. If you quit today, your risk of heart disease can be reduced up to 50 percent in one to two years. Exercising and not smoking are great steps to good health. But this must be combined with a healthy diet. And for many of us, this is truly the hard part. I, especially love enchiladas and barbecue. I used to resolve to lose weight every New Year's. But now my resolution is to get and stay healthy. About 30 percent of heart attacks in women are due to obesity, or being overweight. We can avoid junk food by simply not buying it, and we can eat more fruits and vegetables. If I can get my husband to eat broccoli -- (laughter) -- we can all eat an extra serving every day.

And as women improve their own health, they improve the health of their family members. It's estimated that women make 70 percent of their family's health care decisions. When we make healthy lifestyle choices, our families will, too.

Exercise and healthy eating will make you feel great, but only a doctor can give you a clean bill of health. I urge you to visit your doctor and learn your risk factors. Even if you're feeling fine, get your blood pressure checked, your sugar tested, and your cholesterol tested. This spring The Heart Truth campaign will travel to Miami to provide free screenings and heart information to thousands of women. You'll also learn the symptoms associated with a heart attack, which can be critical in saving your life.

Women often have what's called a "silent heart attack," one without symptoms. Studies show that the symptoms women do experience, like extreme fatigue, nausea, dizziness, and shortness of breath, are so common that many women don't realize they're having a heart attack. Waiting for intense or severe symptoms that may never come can be deadly. Early and aggressive treatment can help stop a heart attack.

Preventive screenings, healthy eating, and exercise are vital steps we can take to improve our health, but the best preventive medicine is education. With the many risk factors for heart disease, our greatest risk is ignorance. So I encourage every one of you to go home, pull out your favorite red dress or tie, and tell every woman you know that heart disease doesn't care what you wear. You owe it to your friends and your loved ones, and most important, you owe it to yourself to know the risk for heart disease.

And since everyone in this room now does know the risk for heart disease, please share The Heart Truth. Together we can make a difference, a life-saving difference, through education and prevention. Thank you all very, very much. And thanks for coming today. Thank you. (Applause.)

END 4:54 P.M. EST

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