For Immediate Release
Office of Mrs. Bush
January 29, 2003
Remarks by Mrs. Bush American Heart Association Lunch and Fashion Show
Thank you, Betsy, for your warm welcome. And thank you, Reverend Card, for your beautiful invocation. Thank you to the Women's Board of the
American Heart Association for hosting this important event. I am
delighted to celebrate your 55th Valentine Lunch and Fashion Show.
My daughters would be happy that I am here, too, since they think my
wardrobe needs "major work." Their typical response whenever they see
me in a new outfit is "Mommm!"
Barbara and Jenna would also be glad that I am spending time with
you today and doing something for myself, rather than organizing their
lives -- something all women are guilty of.
Most of us spend time taking care of other people, rather than
ourselves. I am not talking about long soaks in the tub or facials and
hair cuts. These are little perks that make us look good on the
outside. I am talking about eating right, exercising and visiting our
doctor -- things are vital to good health.
As women, we love to share advice and information with each other.
When a friend tells us about a miracle wrinkle cream, we immediately
run out and buy it. If a co-worker recommends a new low-fat recipe for
triple chocolate brownies, we race home and try it. But if a friend
tells us that heart disease is the number one killer of women in
America and that we need to get a check-up, we dismiss it and say,
"I'll try to go when I have time."
What would you do if your spouse or a loved one went for an annual
check-up and was diagnosed with high cholesterol -- a risk factor for heart
disease? You would probably go to the library and check out every book
on the subject. Then you might go to the grocery store and buy all the
fruits and vegetables you could find to help him eat a more healthful
diet. You would encourage him to exercise every day and to see his
doctor regularly. So -- why don't we do the same for ourselves?
This is a question women cannot avoid any longer. Heart disease
kills nearly 500,000 women in America every year -- nearly the
population of Washington, DC. What is even more alarming is that fewer
than half of all women are aware of this risk. We know a great deal
about breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Most women identify cancer as
the leading cause of death.
Heart disease kills more women than all forms of cancer combined.
One in 25 women will die from breast cancer. One in 2 will die from
heart disease. But heart disease is not simply a set of statistics.
It affects all of us -- our mothers, sisters and daughters. Women who
will not have the chance to attend their daughter's wedding. Women who
will not see their grandchildren grow up.
These statistics are disturbing. But what is even more disturbing
is that heart disease is often preventable. Women can stop becoming
statistics and start becoming healthier right now.
We must educate ourselves and other women about the risks of heart
disease -- and we must commit ourselves to a lifestyle that promotes
lifelong health. Knowledge is our strongest medicine. Now that we know
about the dangers of heart disease, we can make simple changes in our
lives to reduce our risk. And when it comes to improving our health,
little steps can make a big difference.
The first step is to get moving. We all know we should exercise;
and we all know the excuses for not doing it -- too busy, too tired, or
too confused about how much is enough. There is one absolute when it
comes to exercise: any amount of exercise is better than none. In a
recent study of more than 70,000 post-menopausal women at
Harvard's Brigham and Women's Hospital, women cut their risk of heart
disease by up to 40 percent whether they walked or jogged for just 30
minutes a day.
Walking is one of my favorite forms of exercise. I love to walk on
trails at Camp David and at the ranch in Crawford. It is estimated that
if just 10 percent of adults began walking regularly, we could save 5.6
billion dollars in costs related to heart disease. So grab a friend,
your children or the family pet and go for a walk. With my schedule it
is tough to make time to exercise, but I try to walk at least three
times a week. And if my mother-in-law Barbara Bush, who is 77, can swim
88 laps at a time, the rest of us can surely walk 30 minutes.
Incorporating strength training into an exercise program is also a
great way to increase muscle mass and strengthen bone density -- which
is vitally important for women. I work out with free weights at least
twice a week and I am much stronger since I started lifting weights.
Exercising is a great first step to good health, but it must be
combined with a balanced, healthy diet. For many of us, this is truly
the hard part. My New Year's resolution every year is to lose weight.
But this year, my resolution was to get and to stay healthy. It is not
as simple as it seems. But healthier eating might be easier if we
followed Erma Bombeck's advice. She said, "Never order food in excess
of your body weight."
There are simple steps we can take to lower our risk of heart
disease. Healthy eating requires choosing the right foods and
preparing them in a healthy way. Studies show that the more fruits and
vegetables we eat, the more we can decrease our risk for heart disease.
It is also essential that we model healthy behavior and set a good
example for our children. Most of us do the grocery shopping for our
families. We can avoid eating junk food simply by not buying it. And we
can read the labels when we shop for groceries. Reducing blood
cholesterol by dietary means has been shown to reduce the risk for
Exercise and healthy eating will make you feel great. But only your
doctor can give you a clean bill of health. Women must visit their
doctor and get preventive screenings. Routine screenings save
lives. Often when women have chest pain they think it is just
heartburn. Women do not associate chest pain with a heart attack
because only middle-aged, overweight men have heart attacks. Do not let
heart disease go undetected. Go see your doctor. Get your blood
pressure checked regularly. And if you have a family history of heart
disease, inquire about preventive measures you can take to reduce your
Preventive screenings, healthy eating, and exercise are vital steps
we must take for good overall health. They are not steps we can pencil
in whenever we have time. They must become part of our daily lives.
Healthy living is about living better and living longer. And lifelong
health must be every woman's goal for herself, her family and her
Author Louise Erdrich writes about the power of storytelling in
Native American culture. For Native Americans, talking and sharing
stories are ways they keep their culture alive. Erdrich wrote, "I got
well by talking. Death could not get a word in edgewise, grew
discouraged, and traveled on." Women must keep talking about the risks
of heart disease. We must educate ourselves and each other -- because
although heart disease is the number one killer of women, heart
disease is preventable. And we must do more than talk when it comes to
exercising and healthy eating.
This Valentine's Day, the American Heart Association wants you to
reach out to every woman you know -- every mother, wife, daughter,
sister, aunt and friend. Talk to them about the risks of heart disease
and encourage them to visit their doctor. We must take better care of
each other and of ourselves, o that we can continue to take care of
all the people we love.