There was a time — a long time — when women’s concern about heart disease was whether it would leave them a widow. But times have changed.
“Every year, coronary heart disease, the single biggest cause of death in the United States, claims women and men in nearly equal numbers, totaling about 500,000 lives,” says a report from the Harvard Medical School. “More than 6.5 million women have some form of it.”
Shirley Turner, co-chair of this year’s Go Red for Women Luncheon with her husband, Wes, former publisher of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, says just spreading the news about the dangers of heart disease for women itself has been exciting. What women don’t know can kill them.
“They have no idea what their numbers are,” she said. “Women wouldn’t consider not getting a mammogram, but they have no idea if their cholesterol is high. They have no idea what their blood pressure is.” They’ll be able to find out both at this year’s Go Red for Women Luncheon, Feb. 28, at the Omni Fort Worth Hotel, and they’ll also be able to learn hands-only CPR — cardio-pulmonary resuscitation.
“Wes’ and my big focus this year is on teaching as many people CPR as possible,” Turner said. They trained about 75 people at a party at their house earlier in the year, and there have been several other parties where similar numbers of people were trained. “At the luncheon, we’ll be teaching everyone CPR,” she says.
The Turner’s daughter, Sara Camp, is a nurse practitioner and is the Heart Association’s national director of health care quality marketing and research. That is one reason for their involvement. But for Wes Turner, another part of it was the sudden death of Star-Telegram Vice President David Ivory in 2007. Ivory died of a heart attack while playing golf at Glen Garden Country Club.
“I couldn’t help but wonder if somebody there had known CPR, could it have made a difference?” Turner said. “The loss of David … certainly played a role in my willingness to try to educate as many people as we can about heart disease and the critical importance of CPR.”
Early recognition of heart attack and initiation of chest compression is critical in surviving a heart attack, says Dr. Jeff Beeson, medical director of MedStar. “Evidence shows every minute the heart is not pumping blood, we decrease the chance of survival by 10 percent,” he said. Dispatchers are trained to instruct 911 callers in how to administer CPR while waiting for help to arrive. “Across the country, cities with the best survival statistics from cardiac arrest also have the highest incidence of bystander chest compressions,” Beeson said. “This is where we can make a difference. So if we as a community want to improve survivability from cardiac arrest, everyone needs to know how to do chest compressions.”
Go Red for Women has led the effort to educate and involve women in the effort to end heart disease for more than a decade. The AHA says the program raised more than $33 million in 2013.