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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
July 15, 2004

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at Heart Truth Event in Jacksonville, Florida
St. Vincent's Medical Center
Jacksonville, Florida

photos  Photos

10:36 A.M. EDT

MRS. BUSH: Joyce, thank you very, very much. Thanks for sharing your story.

Joyce makes a very good point. And that is, it's not just women that need to be educated about heart disease but, in fact, the medical community, really our whole community needs to be educated. So many of us think of heart disease as a man's disease only. And so thank you, Joyce, for getting the word out to everyone here in this community and all over, that heart disease strikes women and men in the United States.

Laura Bush addresses a Heart Truth event at St. Vincent's Hpspital in Jacksonville, Fla., July 15, 2004.  White House photo by Joyce Naltchayan We have a lot in common, Joyce and I do. We both want to get this word out and we both love gardening. And we both know what it's like to raise teenagers. (Laughter.)

My daughter, Jenna, is traveling with me today and it's been great fun to spend more time with my daughters since they graduated from college last spring. Although I must say I haven't missed the critiques of my hairstyle. (Laughter.) But it's been really fun to have them with me.

Thank you all. Thank you all very much for your warm welcome, and special thanks to the members of the United States Navy who are here from Jacksonville -- (applause).

President Bush and I appreciate your dedication and the dedication of your families. And I know I can speak for all Americans when I say how much we appreciate the men and women of the United States military who defend freedom around the world. (Applause.)

I actually have been e-mailing a few women who are serving in the military in Iraq about the Heart Truth. And they emailed me their goals. These are young women, of course. But their goals are to exercise and to choose healthy foods and to quit smoking. Some of them smoked and wanted to quit smoking. And then their last goal every time is what they do with their healthy heart, and that is to help other people. So that's been very sweet for me to have this chance to e-mail women who are serving in our military in Iraq.

I'm so pleased to be here at St. Vincent's Cardiac Center. Mr. Maher, thank you, Mrs. Darnell and all the doctors and nurses here that make St. Vincent's a national center of excellence.

And I'm very happy to welcome Barbara Alving who is here with us today, Dr. Barbara Alving of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. And thank you all for sponsoring the Heart Truth Campaign.

We want every woman to know the Heart Truth, which is that heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in America. The symbol of the Heart Truth is the red dress that we're all wearing. I love looking out here in the crowd, too, and I see a lot of red dresses and a few red ties. (Laughter.)

The symbol of the red dress reminds women about the risk for heart disease. I've worn every red dress or suit that I have as I've traveled across the country, talking to women about heart disease. I also wear the red dress pin to remind women that heart disease doesn't care what you wear.

Many of the women on stage with me have learned this first hand. They survived a heart attack and they're committed to educating others about prevention. I hope that each one of you will do the same thing when you leave here today.

This is vitally important because half a million women will die from cardiovascular disease this year in America. In fact, for the last 20 years, more women than men have died of cardiovascular disease.

What's most alarming is that many women don't know their risk. Many believe that cancer is their greatest concern. Yet heart disease kills more women in our country than all forms of cancer combined.

Doctors and researchers provide hope that we can control this disease. But when it comes to heart disease, very often our health is in our own hands. Prevention and education can save lives.

Women love to share advice. When a friend tells us about a new miracle wrinkle cream, we immediately run out and buy it. (Laughter.) Or if a coworker gives us a recipe for fat-free double fudge brownies, we race home and try it. (Laughter.) But if a friend tells us that heart disease is the leading cause of death for women and that we need to get a checkup, we dismiss it and say, oh, I'll go when I have time. The time to address heart disease is now.

Some of you are here because you managed to squeeze an extra hour out of your day, and you're probably thinking at this very moment that you should be at the market or in a board meeting, or making cookies for the baseball team. As wives, mothers, daughters and sisters, we spend more time taking care of other people instead of ourselves. Oh, we may soak in the tub or get a facial, but these are little perks that make us look good on the outside.

I'm talking about taking care of our heart by eating healthy, exercising, not smoking and visiting the doctor. Studies show that by leading a healthy lifestyle, women can reduce their risk for heart disease by as much as 82 percent. But only 3 percent of American women actually do every one of these steps.

Sharon Sullivan learned the truth about heart disease when her twin sister, Sandra, suffered a heart attack at the age of 43. Sandra's 20-year-old daughter lived at home with her at the time. Normally, when her daughter would leave for the day, she'd just holler goodbye to Sandra from the front door. But that day, she decided to tell her mother in person, and she found Sandra having a heart attack in her bedroom.

Sandra's sister, Sharon, was shocked. Both she and Sandra were in good health and they didn't have a family history of heart disease. And the only symptom that Sandra experienced before her heart attack were fatigue and shortness of breath. Sandara was rushed to the hospital, where she had surgery.

She is doing well today and she continues to be an inspiration to her sister and to others. Today, both Sharon and Sandra eat more fruits and vegetables, they exercise every day and they visit their doctor regularly. Sharon encourages her family and friends to learn their risk factors and she tells them that heart disease is often preventable.

In fact, 90 percent of women under the age of 50 who have heart attacks have at least one risk factor they can control, like smoking or overweight. 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 is enough. But there is one absolute when it comes to exercise: Any amount is better than none.

Walking is my favorite form of exercise. I love to walk on the trails at Camp David or at our ranch in Crawford. 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. 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. And it's not as simple as it seems, especially when you have a pastry chef whose idea of a light dessert is four layers of chocolate instead of seven. (Laughter.)

About 30 percent of heart attacks in women are due to obesity or being overweight. And the prevalence of obesity in our country is growing at an alarming rate. Nearly 60 million adults in America are obese, and the percentage of young people who are overweight has more than doubled in the last 20 years.

Women are often the ones who do the grocery shopping and the cooking. 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 extra servings of vegetables every day.

Amazingly, it's estimated that women make 70 percent of their families' health care decisions. When women improve their own health, they can improve the health of their families, and the health of our country.

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 the risk factors. Even if you're feeling fine, get your blood pressure and your blood sugar tested and your cholesterol checked, and learn the symptoms associated with a heart attack.

Women like Sandra often have what's called a silent heart attack, one without symptoms. Studies show that the symptoms women do experience, like fatigue, nausea, dizziness and shortness of breath are so common that many of them don't realize they're symptoms of a heart attack.

Waiting for intense or severe symptoms that may never come can be deadly. Early and aggressive treatment can stop a heart attack in its tracks.

Preventive screenings, healthy eating and exercise are vital steps we can take to improve our health. But the best preventive medicine is education.

I recently visited St. Luke's Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, to talk with women about heart disease. A few days after my visit, the doctor sent me an inspiring story about the power of education. When Joyce Cullen woke in the middle of the night with a chest pain, her first thought wasn't a heart attack. Like Joyce, she had been to the doctor, a couple of days before and he had given her a clean bill of health.

But Joyce had watched the news coverage of my visit to Kansas City and she had learned the symptoms of heart disease. She realized that she had many of them. She immediately went to the hospital, where she suffered a heart attack.

Joyce had surgery and is in good health today. And now she shares her story with women around the country. Joyce is proof that by informing women about heart disease and educating every American about prevention, we can save lives. With the many risk factors for heart disease, our greatest risk is ignorance.

And since everyone here now knows the risk for heart disease, please share the Heart Truth. We've seen the great benefits a public health campaign can have with the pink ribbon. Amazingly, mortality rates for breast cancer are down to 4 percent. If we take charge of our health and the health of our families, we can do the same thing for heart disease.

So go home, pull our your favorite red dress, 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 yourselves.

Thank you all very, very much. Thanks for spreading the word. (Applause.)

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