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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
May 12, 2005
Mrs. Bush's Remarks at Unveiling of First Ladies Red Dress Collection
John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
11:07 A.M. EDT
MRS. BUSH: Thank you so much, Secretary Leavitt. Thank you for your good work. And I'm also grateful that Jackie Leavitt's here. Good to see you, Jackie. And all the spouses of Cabinet members and Congressmen and Senators who are here with us today, thank you all very much for joining us. Dr. Zerhouni, good to see you. Dr. Elizabeth Nabel, thank you for your very good work. And Michael Kaiser, thanks so much for your warm welcome to the Kennedy Center. And of course, special thanks to Nancy Reagan for joining me today and joining all of us today. Thanks so much. (Applause.)
The Red Dress is the national symbol for the Heart Truth, and this collection is the First Ladies' effort to remind women about heart health. For the First Ladies Red Dress Collection, Nancy Reagan has donated a red lace Oscar de la Renta evening gown, right here on the front -- so beautiful. It was the gown she wore when her husband was presented with the Order of the Bath by Queen Elizabeth in London in 1989. Mrs. Reagan's love of the color red is well known. Maybe her passion started when a dashing Ronald Reagan proposed to her in a red upholstered booth at a bistro in Los Angeles. (Laughter.)
America's First Ladies have found many occasions to wear red. Lady Bird Johnson celebrated her 80th birthday in her red evening gown. Betty Ford's and Rosalynn Carter's red dresses were reliable favorites. Barbara Bush wore red to a state dinner -- accompanied, of course, by her pearls. Hillary Clinton's red dress set just the right tone on Valentine's Day. And I wore my red dress to the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow. We've all made good use of our red dresses, and now we're using them to promote our common interest in women's health.
All women need to know the Heart Truth, which is that heart disease is the leading cause of death among American women, and I was really surprised myself when I heard this. Like many women, I assumed that heart disease was a man's disease. But this year alone, nearly half a million American women will die from cardiovascular disease, about 60,000 more women than men.
What's most alarming is that many women don't realize that heart disease can be prevented. 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.
When it comes to heart disease, education and prevention can save lives. 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 85 percent. But surprisingly, only about three percent of American women actually do all of these things.
It's easy to get started on the road to better heart health. Thirty minutes a day of exercise will make a dramatic difference. With a busy schedule, though, it's tough for women to make time for exercise. But if my mother-in-law Barbara Bush can swim a mile a day, the rest of us can walk for 30 minutes. Remember that half an hour of exercise each day can add years to our lives.
A healthy diet goes hand-in-hand with a more active lifestyle. For a lot of us, this is really 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.
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. Women are often the ones who do the grocery shopping and the cooking, so when women improve their own lives, they can improve the lives and health of their families, and the health of our country.
Another great step you can take is to stop smoking. If you quit today, your risk of heart disease can be reduced by up to 50 percent in one to two years. And you'll probably find that once you quit smoking, you have more energy and more stamina for that exercise.
We have seen the great benefits that a public health campaign can have with the Pink Ribbon. Mortality rates for breast cancer are down to just four percent. With the Red Dress, we can inspire women to get heart healthy and to turn the tide against heart disease. So I encourage you to get out your favorite red dress and tell every woman you know that heart disease doesn't care what you wear.
Enjoy the Heart Truth's First Lady Red Dress Collection, and tell your mothers and sisters and daughters and girlfriends to visit this exhibit. Together, we can make a lifesaving difference, through education and prevention, and we can show women across America that being healthy never goes out of style.
Thank you all very much. (Applause.)