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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
September 16, 2003

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at Heart Truth Event in Kansas City, Missouri
St. Luke's Hospital
Kansas City, Missouri

Thank you, Mr. Hastings, and the doctors, nurses, and administrators here for making St. Luke's a national center of excellence. And special thanks to Dr. Stevens and Marcia McCoy of the Women's Cardiac Center for educating women about the importance of good heart health.

Thank you, Clenda (Jefferies) for your inspiring words. And thanks to Dr. Alving of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute for sponsoring The Heart Truth Campaign with the Department of Health and Human Services.

Laura Bush speaks about heart disease risks for women at St. Luke's Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., during a Heart Truth Campaign Event, Sept. 16, 2003.  White House photo by Susan Sterner We want every woman across America to know The Heart Truth - which is that heart disease is the number one killer of women. Here in Kansas City, the Red Dress Exhibit at Crown Center kicked off The Heart Truth Week. This exhibit features red dresses created by some of the world's top designers. The Red Dress is the symbol to remind women about their risk for heart disease. This exhibit debuted in New York on Valentine's Day and will travel across the country to promote awareness for heart disease.

You might think that the beautiful women behind me are part of the Red Dress Exhibit, but they are women just like you and me - women who are at risk for heart disease and who are committed to educating others about prevention. I hope that each of you will do the same when you leave here today. You owe it to your friends and loved ones and, most importantly - you owe it to yourself. Some of you are here because you managed to squeeze an hour out of your day. And you're probably thinking that at this moment you should be at the market or in a board meeting or making cookies for the soccer team.

Many women spend time taking care of other people, instead of themselves. We may soak in the tub or get facials, but these are little perks that make us look good on the outside. I'm talking about taking care of our health by eating right, exercising and visiting the doctor. Women 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 fat-free recipe for double-fudge 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 go when I have time."

The time to address heart disease is now. Heart disease kills nearly 500 thousand women in America every year - nearly fourteen-hundred mothers, sisters, and daughters, every day.

What is even more alarming is that most women think that heart disease is just a man's disease. But in reality, more women than men died of heart disease in 2002. Heart disease kills more women than all forms of cancer combined. One in 30 women will die from breast cancer. One in 2 will die from heart disease.

A second misconception is that women and men experience the same signs and symptoms of a heart attack. But women often have a silent heart attack, one without symptoms. Many women believe that if they have a family history of heart disease, they will develop the condition. The risks are greater - but women can still work to prevent an attack. If you have genes that cause high cholesterol, you can lower your risk with exercise and healthy eating. But it is important to take action now if you have a father or brother who's had heart disease under the age of 55 - or a sister or mother with heart disease under the age of 65.

Another misconception is that heart disease can be cured with surgery. Heart disease is not curable - it's a lifelong condition. Surgery helps, but often after a heart attack, arteries remain damaged. This puts a woman at a greater risk for another attack - thirty-eight percent of women will die within one year after having a heart attack.

Cathy Porter learned the truth about heart disease the hard way. The day before her forty-fifth birthday, she felt like someone hit her in the chest with a baseball bat. She passed it off as indigestion. When she started sweating and getting dizzy, she thought it could be a heart attack. Both her parents died of heart-related diseases. But Cathy didn't have tingling in her arm or any of the so called classic symptoms. She was athletic and she ate fairly well. But she did have one of the highest risks for heart disease - she smoked. Cathy was rushed to the hospital where she was treated for a heart attack.

Nine weeks ago, she had surgery to repair her arteries. Since then and since she quit smoking, Cathy is in good health and her heart function has improved. Cathy, thank you for sharing your story to help educate others.

To reduce our risk for heart disease, we can exercise, eat a healthy diet, quit smoking, and get preventive screenings. By leading a healthy lifestyle, women can lower their risk of heart disease by a staggering eighty-two percent. 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. But there is one absolute when it comes to exercise - any amount is better than none.

Walking is one of my favorite forms of exercise. I love to walk on trails at Camp David and at the 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 to exercise, but I try to walk at least three times a week. I walked this morning in Mobile, Alabama. And if my mother-in-law Barbara Bush can swim 88 laps at a time, the rest of us can surely walk 30 minutes.

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 fifty 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, Blue Bell ice cream and, of course, barbecue. I know you love barbecue in Kansas City as well.

My New Year's resolution every year is to lose weight. But this year, my resolution was to get and to stay healthy. It's not as simple as it seems - especially not when you have a pastry chef whose idea of a "lite" desert is four layers of chocolate rather than six. About 30 percent of heart attacks in women are due to being overweight or obese. We can avoid junk food by simply not buying it and we can eat more fruits and vegetables. If I can get President Bush to eat broccoli, we can all eat an extra serving of vegetables a day. One more serving a day can cut your risk for heart disease by nearly 5 percent.

Exercise and healthy eating will make us feel great. But only a doctor can give you a clean bill of health. I urge you to be active partners in your health care and learn your risk factors. See your doctor. Get your blood pressure, cholesterol, and weight checked. As part of The Heart Truth Week, you can receive free health screenings at Crown Center. And today is "Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day" at participating health centers.

Ann Waters is taking responsibility for her health. Her father had three angioplasties within the last twenty years. Shortly after she turned forty, Ann started exercising more and eating a healthy diet. She saw an advertisement for the heart assessment program at St. Luke's and took her mom Kay to learn more. Kay O'Connor was used to taking one of her eight children to the doctor - not herself. At 82 she was in good health, but her father had died of heart disease. Today, Ann and Kay know their risks based on their family history and they better understand their health.

So grab your mom or your best friend and check-in with your doctor. You're fortunate to have doctors and nurses close to home who are recognized as some of the top in the country in women's heart health. Preventive screenings, healthy eating, and exercise are vital steps we can take to reduce our risk and improve our health. We must take time for ourselves - and take care of ourselves. I encourage you to see the Red Dress Exhibit this week. And the next time you wear red, tell a woman you know that heart disease doesn't care what you wear. You know the risks for heart disease, so please Share The Heart Truth. Thank you.


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