Donna Ready, wellness coordinator at the Queen's Medical Center, takes a blood sample from Board of Water supply employee Naomi Hanohano.

Women’s heart health
gains emphasis

Most females neglect to get screenings for
cardiovascular illness, the gender's top killer

Isles take part in National Wear Red Day

Honolulu cardiologist Joana Magno bought a couple of red dresses "to shout it out" this month that cardiovascular disease is serious, especially for women.

"I've been telling people breast cancer has a little pink ribbon (as a symbol); we need a whole red dress" because heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, said Magno, chair of the American Heart Association's local "Go Red for Women" heart campaign.

Activities are aimed at alerting people to the risks and symptoms of the disease and telling them what they can do to prevent it.

"As much as I have passion and concern about breast cancer, the breast cancer folks really had a leg up on us," Magno said. "They have a 'Race for a Cure' and screening mammography. Women have not been screened for heart disease, yet 10 times more women die every year with cardiovascular disease."

Even many doctors are not aware that more women die of cardiovascular disease than men and can be treated aggressively, Magno said. "One of the top doctors in town said: 'Oh, gee, you taught me something. I thought women die of breast cancer.'"

Jackie Ng-Osorio, 27, is among volunteers trying to help get the word out about good heart health. She said she thought she might be having a heart attack on June 30 when her heart raced at 200 beats per minute after finishing a 5-mile run.

After another incident, several procedures and tests, cardiologists found she had "third-degree heart block" and needed a pacemaker, she said.

Although she can feel it, she said it has not inhibited her. She is running again and works 30 hours a week in the Hawaii Medical Service Association's care management department. She is also taking premed classes at the University of Hawaii with hopes of becoming a pediatrician.

Although she does not have cardiovascular disease, she said she talks about her experience to make people aware heart problems do not just happen to those in their 70s and 80s.

As part of a push for people to identify risk factors before symptoms of heart disease or stroke occur, teams from the Queen's Medical Center's Heart Center are giving free screenings to employees at workplaces.

Besides a blood test, employees fill out questionnaires to present "a snapshot picture of their life" for possible lifestyle changes, said Donna Ready, Women's Heart Advantage wellness coordinator at the Heart Center.

Lisa Lee, 37-year-old civil engineer, was among those screened when Queen's launched its Workplace Heart Health Wellness Fair last week at the Honolulu Board of Water Supply.

She said she had no family history of heart disease and "I just don't like pain -- even a finger poke," but she wanted to find out more about it. "It didn't hurt," she said afterward, "but I need to exercise more. I'm going to score low on that."

Scotty Sugiyama, 49, a pipe fitter, said he was getting screened "just to find out about my blood pressure and cholesterol." He said he "just started the Atkins diet," which he has broken a couple of times, and does no sustained exercise. "But I do work hard. I sweat a lot," he laughed.

Free heart screenings will be done at any workplace and at Queen's Heart Center to anyone 18 or older by calling 547-GIFT for appointments. From Feb. 14, 2003, to Jan. 28, the Heart Center screened 2,068 people, including 1,640 women, Ready said.

Kapiolani Women's Center and Straub Heart Center developed a program to help women prevent and detect heart disease. They receive a complete heart assessment and a coach to help make lifestyle changes. Call 535-7000 to register.

Magno pointed out there are various types of heart disease. "The thing we want women to be aware of is coronary heart disease, or heart attacks and factors that contribute to that."

For example, she said, "Diabetes isn't just considered a risk factor for a heart attack, but a disease equivalent ... a cardiovascular disease."

Risks also are higher in some ethnic populations and among people without access to insurance coverage and health care, she said.

Women who are in those categories or have other risk factors should follow the heart association's prevention guidelines, she said. "It doesn't matter how young you are."

She noted a 27-year-old woman who had a quadruple bypass. "That is not every day, but even women in their 20s can be at risk and should be taking it seriously if they develop symptoms of a heart attack."

One patient who had a heart attack at age 45 told her she had no risk factors and had never been ill, Magno said.

The woman went to an outlying emergency room with what doctors thought was indigestion until they put her on a heart monitor. She had a heart attack while being transported to Queen's, Magno said.

She said the woman was in denial about risk factors because she smoked a pack of cigarettes a day.

"That did not compute to her that was a risk factor," Magno said. "It's really important that people read these stories and say, 'Hey, if she had a heart attack, couldn't I?'"


Isles to take part in
National Wear Red Day

Residents will see a lot of red tomorrow as Hawaii women observe a "National Wear Red Day" to support those touched by heart disease and stroke.

The Empire State Building and Niagara Falls will be among landmarks illuminated in red to emphasize the message across the country.

Hawaii's "Go Red for Women" Heart Campaign was scheduled for kickoff from noon to 1 p.m. today at Tamarind Park in downtown Honolulu.

A "Go Red for Women Fashion Show" will be held at noon Sunday at Ala Moana Center.

Women's health educational seminars and screenings are scheduled at 5 p.m. Feb. 27 at Wilcox Memorial Hospital, Kauai; 9 a.m. Feb. 28 at the Naniloa Resort in Hilo; and 8:30 a.m. Feb. 29 at the Filipino Community Center in Waipahu, Oahu. Call 538-7021 to register on Oahu or 800-AHA-USA1, toll-free from the neighbor islands.

Kapiolani Health Center, 1907 S. Beretania St., will host two free Heart Health lectures: "Supermarket Savvy" on Feb. 27, from 12:15 to 1:15 p.m., and "Luaus, Parties and Barbecues: How to Indulge Without Overindulging," March 11, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Call 535-7000 to register.


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