OLD BRIDGE – It was a sea of red at Silver Linings of Old Bridge as members recognized February as “Go Red for Women Month” designated by the American Heart Association.
On the first Friday of every February, which is designated as American Heart Month, the nation comes together, igniting a wave of red from coast to coast, Anahita Feltz, manager at Silver Linings at Old Bridge said.
The annual groundswell unites millions of people for a common goal – the eradication of heart disease and stroke. Go Red for Women is the American Heart Association’s national movement to end heart disease and stroke in women because it’s not just a man’s disease.
“In fact, more women than men die every year from heart disease and stroke,” she said. “The good news is that 80 percent of cardiac events can be prevented with education and lifestyle changes.”
The day of recognition on Feb. 7 began with information about women heart health through a presentation by Nancy Kujawski, director of nursing at Lares Homecare, a home health care service in Matawan.
“Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of women, causing 1 in 3 deaths every year – that’s about one woman every minute,” she said.
Kujawski said for some people the very first sign of a problem is a heart attack, arrhythmia, an irregular heart beat, or heart failure, where the heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs.
“A heart attack is the actual death of a segment of your heart muscle caused by a loss of blood supply,” she said, noting the warning signs of a heart attack for women are not the same as the warning signs for men.
Symptons of a heart attack for men include chest pain or discomfort, shortness of breath and nausea, Kujawski said. For women, symptons include back, neck or jaw pain or tightness, burning sensation in the chest similar to heartburn, chest discomfort, dizziness, vomiting, fatigue, lightheadedness, nausea, shortness of breath and sweating, she said.
Kujawski said she can’t talk about heart disease without talking about high blood pressure or hypertension. She noted high blood pressure is often considered a silent killer because typically there are no symptoms until one checks their blood pressure.
“Nearly half of American adults have high blood pressure,” she said, adding women are at risk of developing high blood pressure. She said being overweight, family history or reaching menopause are all risk factors of high blood pressure.
Kujawski said high blood pressure is also the leading cause of stroke, which occurs when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted or blocked. She said if someone believes someone is having a stroke, a person should remember the word “FAST” – “F” for face drooping, “A” for arm weakness, “S” for slurred speech, and “T” is for time.
“A stroke can be treated several hours when [a patient] gets to the emergency room,” she said.
Kujawski said while there are risk factors out of one’s control such as age, family history and previous heart attacks, there are many risk factors that one can control, treat or manage, including high blood pressure, smoking, cholesterol, diet, alcohol consumption, exercise, and watching one’s weight.
This year, Silver Linings at Old Bridge partnered with Reformed Church Home and Lares Home Care to help members go red for women’s heart health.
Andrea Walls, director of marketing at Reformed Church Home, said she appreciates their good partnership with the Silver Linings program.
“It’s really evolved over the last couple of years,” she said. “They support us in so many ways with the shawls knitted [by Silver Lining’s members] and donated for us, the blankets, and [Silver Linings’] Divas and Dudes come and entertain us.”
For the special occasion, Walls said the Reformed Church Home made 150 chocolate lollipops for the members to take home.
Anthony Dragotti of Lares Home Care noted the residents at Reformed Church Home paint rocks, which are placed around Silver Linings. When a member finds a painted rock, they receive a prize from the Reformed Church Home. He said it allows residents of the home to showcase their artistic talents and allows them to work with the different groups in the community.
The day of recognition also included a visit by Mayor Owen Henry, a special Zumba class, along with informational materials, blood pressure readings, giveaways, a deejay and ice cream social to top off the day.