Heart Choices: National Wear Red Day is Friday -->

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National Wear Red Day is Friday

February is a special month for me. Yes, my birthday is the first day of the month but it's also Heart Month. It's the month when we draw attention to the fact that:

The #1 killer of women is heart disease.

It's often thought of as a men's disease but it's not.

I've often heard people justify their poor health habits by saying you have to die of something. Why not a sudden heart attack? But that's not always the case.

I worked as a cardiac nurse for 25 years. I once conducted a survey asking heart patients what they were most afraid of. I thought they would say they were afraid of dying of a heart attack. But no. They were more afraid of surviving a heart attack and becoming dependent on others.

It's a preventable disease. Risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes and prediabetes,  lack of regular exercise, family history of heart disease, age 55 or older (for women). The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute's website has much more information.

As a child, I suffered the effects of a congenital heart defect. I was unable to keep up with other children. I spent much time alone coloring and drawing. When I was seven years old, surgical techniques had improved so I was able to have the operation to correct my defect. Today I am healthy and have no limitations. The American Heart Association helped my mom find blood donors. At that time we needed 30 blood donors with B+ blood to donate the day of my surgery. Every year afterwards, my mom and I walked door to door collecting money for this organization.

Many years later, I was asked to speak to a large auditorium of people at New York Presbyterian Hospital. It was a homecoming for former patients and healthcare workers. I had my surgery way back in 1960. Here I am wearing RED with my heart surgeon Dr. Malm. This was back in 1971.

I was impacted greatly by my heart condition and surgery. I became a cardiac nurse. I continue to encourage others to choose a more healthy lifestyle. It's your day to day choices that determine what your tomorrows will become. I truly believe that.

Let's bring attention to this deadly disease and not continue to assume it's a man's disease. Women are dying of heart disease every day. Find out your risk factors and make the choice to take better care of your health.

So I am going to ask you to do something. Will you wear RED this Friday?

Blessings and love,

Debbie Petras
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