The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
February 4, 2004

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at Heart Truth Event in Savannah, Georgia
St. Joseph's/Candler Hospital
Savannah, Georgia

11:51 A.M. EST

MRS. BUSH: Thanks so much. And Carole, thank you very, very much for your very inspiring words. Carole and I have a lot in common. We both want women to know about their risk for heart disease, we both love teaching, and we both know what it's like to raise teenagers.

With a 16-year-old at home, I imagine Carole is right now going through the "never" stage. You never get to drive your own car, you never get to use the phone, and you're never right. (Laughter.) But Carole is right in her advice about heart disease and we appreciate you very much sharing your story with all of us. Thank you, Carole.

President Bush joins me in thanking the Third Infantry Division from Fort Stewart for their dedicated service. And I see we have some members over here of the military. Thank you all for coming here. (Applause.)

We appreciate the many sacrifices that our military men and women make for our countries and the special burden that is placed upon their families. All of America thanks you for your courage and your commitment to your country.

Thanks also to Georgia's First Lady, Mary Purdue, for being here, and to Mayor Johnson, thank you very much. I understand Mayor Johnson is working very closely with all the group who is getting ready to host the G-8. You know, the President and I have invited the world leaders from the big economies from around the world here to Sea Island, Georgia, and we're really looking forward to it. I know we've invited them to the most hospitable state and town there is in our country, so we're really looking forward to that. (Applause.)

Thanks also to Paul Hinchey and to Dr. Geffen and to Dr. Gordon and to all the physicians and nurses here for making St. Joseph's a regional center for excellence.

I'm pleased that Dr. Cristina Beato from the Department of Health and Human Services is traveling with me today. You'll get to hear from her in a minute. Dr. Beato and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute sponsor The Heart Truth campaign.

We want every woman to know The Heart Truth. The symbol of the Heart Truth is this red dress which I'm wearing the red dress pin, and everybody up here is wearing their best red dress. And that is to remind women about their risk for heart disease.

The women on the stage are wearing red because they want to remind us that women everywhere are at risk. Many of these women have learned that first hand. They've survived a heart attack, and they are committed to caring and educating other women about prevention.

I hope everyone else here in the room will do the same thing when you leave today, and throughout the month of February, which is designated American Heart Month.

On Monday, President Bush signed a proclamation designating February American Heart Month, to bring attention to heart disease. The President has also proposed more than $2.4 billion for the National Institutes of Health in his 2005 budget. And this includes a $65 million increase which will help lead to new and better treatments for heart disease. Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States.

But this money is vitally important, as we are all at risk for this disease. For the last 20 years, more women than men have died of cardiovascular disease in America. Nearly half a million women die every year. In fact, 65,000 more women will die from cardiovascular disease this year than men.

What's most alarming is that most women don't know about this risk. Many believe that heart disease is a man's disease and that cancer is their greatest concern. Yet heart disease kills more women in our country than all forms of cancer combined. Doctors and researchers provide hope that we can control this disease. But when it comes to heart disease, very often our health is in our own hands. Prevention and education can save lives.

You can join in spreading the message of The Heart Truth by wearing your best red dress or tie on National Wear Red Day. This Friday, February 6th, wear red to work or to the grocery store and tell all the women and men you meet about the dangers of heart disease. When you wear red on Friday, you'll literally join an army of women who are committed to creating awareness, even when they're a continent away.

Corporal Tiara Puro is stationed in Baghdad with the Utah Army National Guard. She read about The Heart Truth campaign, and she was so inspired by the message that she and the other women in her unit started eating more wisely and exercising more. And this Friday, they'll wear red with their uniforms to show that they know the heart truth. Corporal Puro said, I want to spread the word about heart health to women here because it's something we can do good for ourselves as women.

Corporal Puro is right. As wives, mothers and daughters, women spend most of their time taking care of others rather than themselves. Some of you are here because you managed to squeeze an hour out of your day. And you're probably thinking at this very moment that you should be at the market or in the board meeting or making cookies for the soccer team.

Oh, we might take time to soak in the bathtub or get a facial, but these are little perks that make us look good on the outside. I'm talking about taking care of our health by eating wisely, exercising and visiting the doctor.

Women love to share advice and information with each other. When a coworker tells us about a fat-free recipe for double fudge brownies, we race home and try it. (Laughter.) But if a friend tells us that heart disease is the leading killer of women in America and that we need to get a checkup, we might dismiss it and say, "Oh, I'll go later when I have time."

The time to address heart disease is now. Heart disease affects women at every age and can begin developing in our teenage years.

Tammy Busby learned the truth about heart disease after she suffered a heart attack at the age of 37. Three months ago, when Tammy woke up trying to catch her breath, she wasn't thinking about a heart attack, even though she had had a history of high blood pressure. When she was 16, Tammy's doctor warned her about her high blood pressure. But at that age, Tammy figured that it was something to worry about when she was in her 70s.

When the pain worsened, Tammy went to the hospital where even the doctors downplayed her symptoms because of her age. After several tests, though, doctors finally discovered that the left side of Tammy's heart was severely blocked. She had a stint placed in her heart and she's doing very well today.

Tammy encourages her family and friends to learn their risk factors for heart disease and to pay attention to their health because Tammy learned 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 weight or smoking.

Studies estimate that 83 percent of all cardiac events could be avoided if women exercised, ate a healthy diet, quit smoking and maintained a healthy weight. But only 3 percent of women in America actually do all of this. We all know we should exercise and we all know the 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's 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 the trails at Camp David or at our ranch. So grab a friend or your child or your dog and go for a walk. With a busy schedule, it's tough to make time for exercise, but I try to walk at least three times a week. And 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.)

You can't strengthen your heart if you continue to smoke. If you quit today, your risk of heart disease is reduced up to 50 percent in two years. Exercising and not smoking are great steps to good health, but this must be combined with a healthy diet and, for many of us, this is truly the hardest part. I especially love enchiladas and, of course, barbecue.

I used to resolve to lose weight every New Year. But now my resolution is to get and stay healthy, and it's not as simple as it might seem, especially when you have a pastry chef whose idea of a light dessert is four layers of chocolate rather than six. (Laughter.)

About 30 percent of heart attacks in women are due to obesity or to being overweight. We can avoid junk food by simply not buying it, or we can eat more fruits and vegetables. If I can get my husband to eat broccoli, we can all eat an extra serving of vegetables every day. (Laughter.)

And women can help improve the welfare of their own loved ones. It's estimated that women make about 70 percent of their family's health care decisions. When we make healthy lifestyle choices for ourselves, our families will, too.

Exercise and healthy eating will make you feel great, but only a doctor can give you a clean bill of health. So I urge you to visit your doctor and learn your risk factors. Even if you're feeling fine, get your blood pressure and your blood sugar tested and your cholesterol checked, and learn the symptoms associated with a heart attack. Women often have what's called a silent heart attack, one without symptoms. Studies show that symptoms women do experience like extreme fatigue, nausea, dizziness and shortness of breath are so common that many women don't realize they're having a heart attack. Waiting for intense or severe symptoms that may never come can be deadly. Early and aggressive help can stop a heart attack.

Preventive screenings, healthy eating and exercise are vital steps we can all take to improve our health. But the best preventive medicine is education. A few days after my visit to Kansas City with The Heart Truth campaign, the doctor sent me an inspiring story from the newspaper about the power of education. When Joyce Cullen awoke in the middle of the night with chest pain, her first thought wasn't a heart attack. But Joyce had watched the news coverage that day of my visit to Kansas City and she had learned that the symptoms of heart -- learned the symptoms of heart disease and realized that she had many of them. She went to the hospital where she suffered a heart attack.

Joyce had surgery and is in good health today, and she joined us at the White House on Monday to share her story. Joyce is proof that by informing women about heart disease and educating every American about prevention, we can save lives. With the many risk factors for heart disease, our greatest risk is ignorance.

So I encourage every one of you to go home, put on your favorite red dress or tie, and tell everyone you know that heart disease doesn't care what you wear. You owe it to your friends and your loved ones, and most important, you owe it to yourself to know the risk for heart disease. And since everyone in here does know those risks for heart disease, please share The Heart Truth. Together, we can make a lifesaving difference through education and prevention.

Thank you all very, very much.


12:04 P.M. EST

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