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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
February 1, 2007
Mrs. Bush's Remarks for Woman's Day Red Dress Awards Heart Truth Event
Time Warner Center
New York, New York
6:11 P.M. EST
MRS. BUSH: Thank you so much, Jane, and thank you very much to Woman's Day and to everyone who has spread the word about heart health -- you're the ones who are saving lives by publishing all the things that women need to know about either their risk factors or what they can do to change their lifestyle and have a healthy heart.
I also want to thank Dr. Elizabeth Nabel for her work as director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute -- I think she's here somewhere out there. There she is. (Applause.) And to Mary Hart for hosting us this evening. Thank you, Mary. And a special thanks to everyone at Woman's Day. (Applause.)
I'm delighted to be here with so many accomplished researchers, doctors, advocates and survivors. Thank you for coming -- and thank you for telling "the Heart Truth."
The Heart Truth is this: Heart disease is the leading cause of death for American women. It kills more women than all cancer combined. The good news is, though, that with very simple steps, we can prevent heart disease by healthy eating, by getting regular exercise, by maintaining a healthy weight, by not smoking, and by seeing our doctors for regular screenings of blood pressure -- we can really prevent heart disease.
In 2002, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute joined with the Department of Health and Human Services to launch the Heart Truth campaign. Already, this initiative is raising women's awareness. In 2000, only 34 percent of women recognized that heart disease as their leading cause of death. Five years later, the number has climbed to 55 percent.
Educating women about their risk factors is one part of preventing heart disease. Reducing those risk factors is another part -- and that's the hard part. That's the part where we take time during our busy family schedules to care for our own health. That's when we don't order fettuccine alfredo -- (laughter) -- when we should have salad, or when we watch TV instead of working out.
Women need encouragement and support to lead a heart-healthy lifestyle. Thanks to the fashion industry, women across the United States now wear the Red Dress to show their support for good heart health. Women put on the Red Dress to remind us that heart disease doesn't care what we wear. And as I know, nothing attracts attention like a red dress -- especially when four people wear it to the same event. (Laughter and applause.) That red dress that I wore to the Kennedy Center Honors that three other of my friends wore -- (laughter) -- will be traveling with the traveling Red Dresses when they're at the Reagan Library.
The Red Dress has become a symbol of heart health. Two years ago, only 25 percent of women recognized the Red Dress. Today, that number is up to 57 percent. Women are rallying around the red dress symbol, and launching their own awareness projects. This month, women from coast to coast will host "Ladies Night Out" events and Red Dress lunches. Churches will use "Red Dress Sundays" to preach life-saving food news. And on February 24th, in more than 50 U.S. cities, women will put on red dresses and go out dancing.
The Red Dress has inspired some women to fit into smaller red dresses. (Laughter.) And it's inspired women to save their own lives. Every year from 2000 to 2004, heart disease deaths among women decreased. In 2003, one out of every three American women who died, died from heart disease. Just one year later, the number dropped to one in four.
These statistics represent a successful public awareness campaign. Most important, they represent 17,000 women who are still wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, and friends -- and not victims of heart disease.
Everyone involved in the Heart Truth campaign and the Red Dress project can be proud of these accomplishments. But there's still more work to be done. Too many women, especially African-American women, die every year of heart disease. Eight million American women are still living with it. While more women now recognize heart disease as the leading cause of death, too few realize that the next life it claims could be their own.
Kathy Kastan used to be one of these women. A few years ago, Kathy began suffering nausea and shortness of breath. At first, she blamed the symptoms on her asthma. She blamed them on turning 40. And like many women, she never imagined she could have heart disease. Neither did her doctors.
After two misdiagnoses, three failed stents, and a double bypass, Kathy's symptoms got worse. Once an active mother who kept up with three young boys, Kathy could no longer walk from one room to the next without devastating chest pain. When the pain became unbearable, Kathy contacted WomenHeart, the national advocacy coalition. Through WomenHeart, Kathy met Dr. Sharonne Hayes, who put Kathy on a new medication. It worked. Kathy recalls "in a couple of months ... I could go to sleep at night without thinking, 'I'm going to die.' I could run with my kids. I got my life back."
Now, Kathy is giving back -- by helping other women reclaim their lives from heart disease. In 2002, Kathy joined WomenHeart as a spokeswoman. Today, she's serving her second term as president. She oversees 40 support networks for women with heart disease, she educates doctors and policy-makers, and encourages millions of women to make heart health a priority.
Promoting heart health is now Kathy's job -- but the opportunity to save lives makes it her passion. "I'm just really glad to be here," Kathy explains. "Every day is a good day."
Today is an especially good day for Kathy. It's the five-year anniversary of her bypass -- and she's celebrating by watching the doctor who rescued her, Sharonne Hayes, receive a Woman's Day award. Congratulations to both of you. (Applause.)
And thanks to each and every one of you here for your work to help women enjoy lives free from heart disease. Through education and prevention, you're saving lives. And by wearing a red dress, we can all show that being healthy never goes out of style.
Thank you for the terrific work you're doing to spread the Heart Truth. And thank you very much for this award. Thank you so much. (Applause.)