February has been proclaimed “American Heart Month,” and we would like to share the importance of living a heart-healthy lifestyle with students, especially women, on campus. We think it is important to acknowledge that heart disease is not just an “old-man’s disease.” In fact, only 55 percent of women realize that heart disease is their number one killer, according to goreadforwomen.org. Female heart attack symptoms are understudied in comparison with male symptoms. Women are often misdiagnosed, leading to premature hospital discharge, missed heart attacks and, consequentially, an increased mortality rate. Females deserve proper medical care and the same preliminary precautions as males. In order to approach equal medical treatment regarding heart disease, we believe raising awareness in the public sphere is an important first step.

In an attempt to promote awareness in our own community, we want to draw attention to the Go Red for Women Campaign, sponsored by the American Heart Association. This campaign focuses on encouraging women to educate themselves about personal heart disease risks, as well as promoting healthy lifestyles to actively lower these risks. It also advocates making the fight against heart disease a personal mission and connecting the individual lifestyle with political action. We want to make young people aware that they can actively lower their risk for heart disease by making heart-healthy decisions now.

Because heart disease can affect women at any age, the Go Red for Women Campaign offers several tips for women in their 20s to help promote a heart-healthy lifestyle. We share these tips in the hope of promoting this campaign’s message on our own campus. College can take a toll on our bodies both mentally and physically. Staying healthy is just as important as getting good grades.

It’s important to check your family history of heart disease. Learn this information now so you can be aware of your own risk. Don’t smoke, and stay away from secondhand smoke. Drink in moderation. Choose birth control carefully. Know your numbers: Evaluate your own cholesterol, sugar and fat levels, blood pressure, BMI and waist circumference. Eat well: Heart-healthy foods include fruits and vegetables, fiber-rich whole grains, lean meats and foods low in saturated and trans fats and sugars. Be active: Make an exercise routine part of your daily life, make an effort to get off the couch or visit the gym regularly — briskly walking to class counts. Watch your weight: Transitions between relationships, school and work can take a toll both emotionally and physically. Aim to develop a positive body image, and take pride in taking care of your own health. Keep portions small, start every meal with filling foods and drink lots of water. Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor. Reduce your risk of heart disease by starting heart disease screenings now.

The Go Red for Women Campaign has a useful, interactive website that provides women of all ages with effective and useful tools for taking heart health into their own hands. The website offers a BetterU Program — a free 12-week online nutrition and fitness program — to help users “makeover” their heart. The website also provides heart-healthy recipes, weekly guidance, online journals, support forums and daily expert tips to guide your quest for developing a heart-healthy lifestyle. The website provides a Go Red Heart Checkup as well as background information and statistics regarding heart disease.

If you are interested in joining the fight against heart disease in women, the website provides an easy way to donate, share personal stories and get involved with the campaign. It even has a Go Red store where you can purchase clothing and other accessories, and proceeds are directed to heart disease research because, as the site states, “doing good and looking good are always in fashion.” You can even “like” Go Red for Women on Facebook to shop, share the information with others or even receive a free red dress pin — the symbol of the Go Red campaign. Who doesn’t like free stuff?

When women become more informed, they are more likely to recognize their heart disease symptoms as potentially threatening and dangerous. It’s time to take your heart-health into your own hands. Go Blue and Go Red today.

Meaghan O’Connor is an LSA freshman. Andrea Byl is an LSA freshman. Amanda Ustick is an LSA junior.

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