NJ Residents Encouraged To Make Heart-Healthy Choices

STATE — In recognition of February as American Heart Month and Feb. 4 as National Wear Red Day, Health and Senior Services Commissioner Dr. Poonam Alaigh encouraged both women and men to make healthier lifestyle choices to help reduce their risk of heart disease – the nation’s and New Jersey’s leading cause of death in both women and men.

First Lady Mary Pat Christie has announced that Drumthwacket, the official Governor’s residence, will be illuminated with red lights starting today and throughout the month of February to raise awareness of this critically important public health issue.


“Women are savvy health consumers, especially when caring for others. But when it comes to their own health, too many women are unaware that heart disease – and its prevention — is one of the most urgent health issues they face,” Alaigh said. “The American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign helps raise awareness and empower women to make lifestyle changes that lead to longer, healthier lives.”

According to the American Heart Association, 90 percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease, which if controlled, could reduce their risk. The following measures can help women reduce their risk:

  • Avoid smoking or using tobacco
  • Exercise 30 minutes most days of the week
  • Eat a heart healthy diet
  • Maintain a healthy weight, and
  • Get regular health checkups to help you control your cholesterol, reduce blood sugar and manage your blood pressure

Each year, more than 400,000 women in the U.S. die of cardiovascular disease – or about one every minute. Cardiovascular disease includes heart disease and stroke, which are the first and third leading causes of women’s death, respectively, in both the U.S. and New Jersey. In both the nation and the state, African American women are at greater risk of both developing cardiovascular diseases and dying from these diseases than are white women.

In New Jersey, about 13,000 women die of heart disease and stroke annually. Women account for 53 percent of deaths due to diseases of the heart (10,868), and 61 percent of stroke deaths (2,168). Just over three percent (110,000) of women in New Jersey have been diagnosed with coronary heart disease and an estimated 2.3 percent (78,000) report they have had a stroke.

Women may not always have the chest pain or discomfort typical of men’s heart attacks. Instead, they may feel shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, back or jaw pain, unusual fatigue, dizziness, or feelings of anxiety that resemble a panic attack.

“In addition to taking heart health seriously, women also need to know how their heart attack symptoms may differ from men’s. Not knowing about these differences could cause potentially deadly delay in seeking help and getting a proper diagnosis,” Dr. Alaigh said.

The commissioner, who has specialized medical training in diseases of the blood vessels, has been a leader in the “Go Red for Women” movement in New Jersey. She is past president and current member of the Board of Directors for the American Heart Association’s Northern New Jersey chapter, and chaired last year’s inaugural Northern New Jersey Go Red for Women Luncheon.

Here are two events marking Wear Red Day in the state:

  • Today – The American Heart Association and the DHSS Chronic Disease Prevention and Control Services Program are sponsoring an event from noon to 1 p.m. Supporters dressed in red will gather in front of the Capital Center at 50 E. State Street, and walk to the State House steps. An American Heart Association representative will speak.
  • Friday, Feb. 11 – The Second Annual Northern New Jersey Go Red for Women Luncheon. Dr. Alaigh will speak at the event, which runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Prudential Center Main Concourse, 165 Mulberry St., Newark. With the theme “Make it Your Business to Fight Heart Disease and Stroke,” the event will draw several hundred women business leaders. Also featured will be health screenings and educational sessions.

With a grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, DHSS is working to prevent heart disease and stroke, particularly among minority and multicultural populations. Since 2007, DHSS’ Chronic Disease Prevention and Control Services Program has worked with the American Heart Association (AHA), Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. of New Jersey, Trenton Fortitude Corporation and other groups and organizations on annual heart disease awareness events.

In conjunction with the AHA, DHSS provides tool kits to Delta Sigma Theta and Trenton Fortitude which can be distributed and used to hold events focusing on heart health awareness and heart healthy resources. These include such events as Go Red Pajama Parties; Power Breakfasts; Salad Nights; Cooking Demonstrations with Recipes; and other casual community gatherings.

The national Go Red movement offers women a free, online Go Red Better U program for tips and guidance on improving heart health at: http://www.goredforwomen.org/BetterU/index.aspx.

For more information on heart disease and stroke, visit the American Heart Association web site at www.heart.org. For more information on Wear Red Day, visit the Wear Red web site at: http://www.goredforwomen.org/wearredday/

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