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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
February 4, 2005

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at Heart Truth Campaign Red Dress Preview
Time Life Building
New York, New York

10:42 A.M. EST

MRS. BUSH: Thank you very much, Duchess. Thank you for being a great role model for women everywhere, and thank you also for being a beautiful model today during the style show. I know you'll be terrific.

As we begin American Heart Month, I'm thrilled that Duchess Sarah Ferguson and many fashion designers and celebrities are uniting to get the word out to women about heart disease. We want all women to know the heart truth, which is that heart disease is the leading cause of death of women in the United States.

I was surprised when I first heard this. Like many women, I assumed that heart disease was a man's disease. But this year alone, nearly half-a-million woman will die from cardiovascular disease in America, about 60,000 more women than men. Doctors and researchers provide hope that we can control this disease, but when it comes to heart disease, education and prevention can save lives.

Thanks to Dr. Anne Taylor, Dr. Elizabeth Nabel, and to the many physicians and heart health organizations here for championing this issue. And special thanks to my good friend, Karyn Frist. Thank you for joining us here today.

I'm so glad that so many of you wore red on this second annual National Wear Red Day. We're quite literally joining an army of women who are committed to creating awareness, even whether they're a continent away. Today in Iraq, Airman First Class Shay Guesnier, and the women in her unit are wearing their Red Dress pins to join our mission. The color red symbolizes our commitment to fight heart disease and to educate every American about the power of prevention, and we know that nothing attracts attention like a red dress. (Laughter.)

I'm so excited to be here in America's fashion capital as we unveil the new 2005 Red Dress collection. And three of the dresses are here for us to see today. Thanks to some of our top designers, the red dress has become an icon, reminding women that heart disease doesn't care what you wear. And women are getting and sharing the message. In communities across the country, women are organizing health fairs, rallies, and their own Red Dress fashion shows to share the heart truth.

In Omaha, Nebraska, salon owners are learning through community education projects and then making their clients aware, as they also make them beautiful. In Springfield, Illinois, women legislators are encouraging their colleagues and constituents to wear red. And in Jonesboro, Arkansas, a local designer made more than 20 red dresses for her friends to wear in a benefit fashion show.

I have been corresponding with an amazing women who helped turn our first National Wear Red Day into a global affair. A year ago, Corporal Tiara Puro was stationed in Baghdad with the Utah Army National Guard. She read about the Heart Truth Campaign and was so inspired by the message that she and other women in her unit started eating sensibly and exercising more. And on National Wear Red Day, they wore red with their uniforms to share the Heart Truth. Tiara recently returned to Utah with a new goal. She speaks to women's groups about the risk of heart disease, and to students about the importance of good health. She is building a walking park to promote exercise and fitness. And tonight, Tiara will host a Love Your Heart Gala, so that couples can learn about heart disease together.

Women are embracing the Heart Truth and discovering that together, we can do something about heart disease. After I visited St. Luke's Hospital in Kansas City in September 2003, I learned firsthand the incredible difference we can make. When Joyce Cullen woke in the middle of the night with chest pains, her first thought wasn't a heart attack. Joyce had been to the doctor a couple of days before, complaining about fatigue, but he had given her a clean bill of health. But that night, Joyce had watched the news coverage of my visit to Kansas City, and she had learned the symptoms of heart disease, and she realized 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.

Now she shares her story with women around the country. Joyce is only one of thousands of women who are learning about heart disease through this campaign. The Heart Truth's national partner, the American Heart Association, has measured changes in awareness about heart disease every three years since 1997. In 2000, only about 34 percent of women recognized heart disease as the leading cause of death among women. In 2003, less than one year after the Heart Truth Campaign began, this number jumped up to 46 percent. And in new research released just this week, 57 percent of women now know that heart disease is the leading cause of death.

But despite our progress, many women still don't consider heart disease to be their greatest personal health problem. Even when they hear stories like that of Joyce Cullen, many women believe that heart disease will never happen to them, and sadly, neither do many of their doctors. We know that women are just as prone to heart attacks as men, but new studies show that many doctors fail to treat women as aggressively as they do men. Doctors order fewer tests for women and take fewer preventive measures, such as prescribing drugs to lower cholesterol and blood pressure.

What's also alarming is that many minority women don't realize their increased risk. Awareness is particularly low among African American and Hispanic women. To reach more minority women, the Heart Truth Campaign is partnering with Essence and CATALINA magazines, and organizations like The Links and the National Black Nurse's Association and the National Association of Latina Leaders, to ensure that all women know the Heart Truth.

Maria Perez-Arton learned the truth about heart disease when she suffered a heart attack at age 54. Maria was in good health and she didn't have a family history of heart disease. She did have diabetes, and she thought she knew all the risks associated with this disease. Her doctor informed her of the possible complications associated with diabetes and of the dangers to her kidneys, her eyes and her limbs. But no one told Maria about the greatest complication, a dramatically increased risk for heart disease. Shortly after dinner one evening, Maria was suffering with what she thought was severe indigestion. Her husband rushed her to the emergency room, where Maria was shocked to discover that she was having a heart attack. She had quadruple bypass surgery, and she is in good health today.

Thank you, Maria, for sharing your story with us today. Maria talks about heart disease on local television shows and lectures new medical students about the special risk and symptoms that women face. She also encourages her family and friends to learn their risk factors, and she tells them that one of the most significant facts about this disease is 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 that they can control, like smoking or being overweight. As we promote awareness among doctors and minority women, we must do more to empower all women to make their health a priority.

Studies show that by eating well, exercising, not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and visiting their doctor, women can reduce their risk for heart disease by as much as 82 percent. But, surprisingly -- and this did really surprise me -- only about three percent of American women actually do each one of these steps.

We all know we should exercise more, and we 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 thing, 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. So grab a friend or your children or your dog and go for a walk. With a busy schedule, it's tough to make time for exercise, but 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 and applause.)

You can't strengthen your heart if you continue to smoke. If you quit today, your risk of heart disease can be reduced by 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 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 six. (Laughter.)

About 30 percent of heart attacks in women are due to obesity. 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. It's estimated that women make about 70 percent of their family's health care decisions. When women improve their own health, they can improve the health of their families and the health of our country.

We have seen the great benefits a public health campaign can have with the Pink Ribbon. Remarkably, mortality rates for breast cancer are down to just four percent. If we can encourage women to take charge of their health and the health of their families, we can do the same thing for heart disease.

With the many risk factors associated with heart disease, a woman's greatest risk is ignorance. So I encourage all of you to keep wearing your favorite red dress, and to tell every woman you know that heart disease doesn't care what you wear.

Now, I'd like to introduce Dr. Anne Taylor, who is a professor of cardiology at the University of Minnesota Medical School. Dr. Taylor chaired the first national clinical study on heart failure in African Americans. This study led to the development of the first drugs specifically for a single ethnic group. She is a strong advocate for the advance of women's heart health, and we're so glad that she's here with us and that she's joined the Heart Truth Campaign. Please welcome Dr. Anne Taylor. (Applause.)

END 11:00 A.M. EST


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