The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
March 8, 2004

Mrs. Bush's Remarks to the American College of Cardiology Presidential Plenary Session
Ernest N. Morial Convention Center
New Orleans, Louisiana

9:15 A.M. CST

MRS. BUSH: Thank you all. Thank you very much. Thank you, Dr. Pepine for your very warm welcome, and thanks to everyone here. I'm so thrilled to receive this honorary fellowship. It's a really huge honor for me. So thank you all very much.

And I'm so happy to have the chance to work with all of you to address heart health issues that affect all Americans. I'm so glad to see so many good friends here in dedicated positions. Many of you, including Dr. Pepine, Dr. Barbara Alving of the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, and Dr. Sharonne Hayes of the Mayo Women's Heart Clinic joined President Bush and me at the White House in February to inaugurate American Heart Month.

Laura Bush visits the Red Dress Project Exhibit and delivers remarks to the media after accepting the 2004 Colleges of Cardiology's Honorary Fellowship in New Orleans, Louisiana. " If we can encourage women to take charge of their health and the health of their families, we can do the same for heart disease. With the many risk factors for heart disease, a woman's greatest risk is ignorance. So I encourage all of you to pull out your favorite red tie or red dress and tell every woman and physician that you know that heart disease doesn't care what you wear." Monday, March 8, 2004.  White House photo by Tina Hager The President and I are proud to be part of your efforts to educate women about heart disease. I joined the Heart Truth Campaign when I heard that heart disease is the number one cause of death among women in America. I was surprised to learn that 65,000 more women than men will die from cardiovascular disease this year. I, like many women, assumed that cancer was our greatest concern.

All of you know the statistics and you know the faces behind the numbers. Your patients or your neighbors, your friends, and maybe even your mother or your wife or your daughters. You understand the devastating effects of heart disease, and you are the greatest champions for advancing awareness and treatment. The fact that Dr. Pepine highlighted women and heart disease during the presidential plenary session shows the ACC's commitment to American women. Thank you for supporting the Heart Truth campaign and thanks to the Louisiana chapter for organizing the heart truth screening event this past weekend.

I hope you'll take a few minutes to visit the red dress collection. Maybe you'll even wear a red tie or a red dress to the ACC gala dinner tomorrow night. I've worn every red dress I own as I've traveled across the country talking to women about heart disease.

I also wear my red dress pin to remind women that heart disease doesn't care what you wear. and women are getting the message. Women have ordered nearly 160,000 red dress pins for themselves, for their mothers, their friends, and even their doctors.

One woman wrote me and said, I ordered pins, one for every friend or family member that came to mind. I've always known heart disease was in my family, but it didn't hit home until seven years ago. She said, my mother had been feeling bad for months, her doctor kept doing tests. Still she didn't have the breath to walk one block. Finally, out of her persistence, her doctor sent her for a stress test. She was checked into the hospital the very next day for bypass surgery. She celebrated her fifty-seventh birthday four days after the surgery. Thank you for the Heart Truth Program. May it wake up every doctor, spouse, parent and child to the seriousness of heart disease among women. This is not just a man's disease.

Women are amazed when they hear stories like this and when they learn what their risk and symptoms are. And they are encouraged by the fact that heart disease is often preventable. And I can tell you that American women are taking their doctors' advice to heart.

In communities across the country, women are organizing health fairs, rallies, and red dress fashion shows to share the heart truth. In Knoxville, Tennessee, women gathered for a breakfast fashion show called "Dresses With a Whole Latte Heart." Women in Indianapolis encouraged the mayor to designate a day in September as Red Dress Day.

At the Heart Truth Mississippi Health Fair, doctors and nurses provided free blood pressure screenings to nearly 500 people. Forty percent of those screened were at risk for cardiovascular disease.

And in Kansas City, Missouri, more than 15 health groups participated in a week-long event where 1,400 people received screenings and information. I spoke to more than 300 women at this event about their heart health.

But what was thrilling was that we didn't just educate women that day; we actually saved a life. 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 of the Heart Truth Campaign's visit to Kansas City, and she had learned the symptoms of heart disease and realized that she had many of them. She went immediately to the hospital, where she suffered a heart attack. Joyce had surgery and she's in good health today.

Joyce is proof that by informing women about heart disease and educating every American about prevention, we can save lives. Joyce is only one of thousands of women who are learning about heart disease through this campaign.

The Heart Truth works with the American Heart Association to measure awareness of heart disease. In 2000, only 34 percent of women surveyed said that heart disease is the leading cause of death among women. Last year, less than one year after the Heart Truth Campaign began, this number jumped to 46 percent.

Many heart organizations are actively involved in calling attention to this disease. With the AHA's Go Red for Women Campaign, the Sister to Sisters free health fairs and the ACC's community involvement, we can spread this vitally important message.

Along with raising awareness, you're also helping patients live longer and more productive lives through advancement in research and treatment. Just last week, a new smaller version of an adult heart pump designed by Debakey was approved for children who are awaiting transplants.

For years, heart disease research has been largely based on studies that either under-represented women or excluded them entirely. Today, this is changing. In the President's 2005 budget, he proposed more than $150 million for research that focuses on heart disease and stroke in women. And since 2001, the Department of Health and Human Services has dedicated more than $6 billion to advance the study of cardiovascular disease.

The Women's Health Initiative found that hormone therapy does not protect against heart disease. And, in fact, combination therapy actually increases the risk of a heart attack during its first year of use. These findings have stimulated widespread change in how hormones are prescribed and used. HHS is also studying how stress contributes to a woman's risk for heart disease and how depression affects the outcomes of treatment.

Right after this session, I'll attend a presentation by Dr. Noel Bairey-Merz, who is the medical director at Cedars Sinai Women's Health Program and chair of the WISE Study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. Major findings from this study, like the difference in male and female angina and the effect of dieting on HDL cholesterol are leading to valuable advancements in treatments for women.

Research also shows that we must do more to educate women about their risk for heart disease. Too few minority women realize their increased risk, and not enough women are discussing heart disease with their doctors. We must and can do more.

As cardiologists, you have a great opportunity to advise Americans about good heart health. The steps that patients can take for a healthy heart are also in parity for good overall health. We all know the guiding principles for good health. A healthy diet, exercise, not smoking and maintaining a healthy weight.

Studies show that, by leading a healthy lifestyle, women can reduce their risk for heart disease by as much as 82 percent. But only 3 percent of American women actually do every one of these steps.

We know that the prevalence of diabetes and obesity is growing at an alarming rate. Nearly 60 million adults in America are obese, and the percentage of young people who are overweight has more than doubled in the last 20 years.

Women are often the ones who do the grocery shopping and the cooking. And women even plan the daily and weekend activities for their families. It's estimated that women make up to 70 percent of their families' health care decisions. So reach out to your female patients and stress the important role that they have in prevention. When women improve their own health, they can improve the health of their children and therefore the health of our country.

President Bush is committed to helping all Americans live healthy lives. The President has proposed more than $28 billion for the NIH in his 2005 budget. Of this, more than $2.4 billion -- an increase of $65 million -- will help lead to new and better ways of preventing and treating heart disease. The budget also provides $46 million for state health campaigns to fight cardiovascular disease and stroke.

We know that fitness is vital to disease prevention. The HealthierUS initiative encourages all Americans to exercise daily, to eat wisely, to get preventive screenings and to limit their intake of alcohol and tobacco. The goal is to get 20 million additional Americans to exercise for at least 30 minutes every day five days a week.

I try to walk every day, but all of us can use a little extra motivation. The HealthierUS has a website where Americans can track their weekly fitness activities and receive presidential awards for achieving fitness goals. The site is located at

And as a challenge to each of you, please educate women about their risk for heart disease. You can even get involved with the Heart Truth Campaign.

Starting this spring the Heart Truth and the ACC will visit cities from Philadelphia to San Diego to provide screenings for women in an exhibit that will feature the red dresses. You can volunteer to assist with screenings and counsel women who are at risk.

I also encourage you to reach out to your colleagues. Seldom are cardiologists the first point of contact when a woman is sick. Talk to primary care physicians, ER docs, pediatricians and ob-gyns in your communities about a woman's risk for heart disease. They may be the only doctor a woman visits in the course of a year. When physicians talk to their patients and when they pay attention to symptoms, lives will be saved.

We've seen the great benefits a public health campaign can have with the pink ribbon. Amazingly, mortality rates for breast cancer are down to 4 percent. If we can encourage women to take charge of their health and the health of their families, we can do the same for heart disease. With the many risk factors for heart disease, a woman's greatest risk is ignorance.

So I encourage all of you to pull out your favorite red tie or red dress and tell every woman and physician that you know that heart disease doesn't care what you wear.

Thank you all very, very much. Thank you for the great work you do in your communities all over the United States for all Americans. Thank you all. Thanks for the honorary fellowship. (Applause.)

END 9:30 A.M. CST

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