Women’s heart health focus of Portland luncheon

Women’s heart health focus of Portland luncheon

Heart disease remains the No. 1 cause of death for women, but the American Heart Association says many women still do not have a clear understanding of the risks of cardiovascular disease and how to protect themselves and their families.

That is why the American Heart Association is bringing the sixth annual Go Red for Women luncheon and educational forum to Portland on March 1.

Brenda Quinn, communications director for the American Heart Association, said the event focuses on a serious illness, but the campaign is designed to present an uplifting and light-hearted take on this preventable disease.

That is why the event tends to feature guest speakers who inject humor into their speeches. Last year, comedienne Kelly MacFarland was invited, and this year, Loretta LaRoche will be keynote speaker. Quinn said LaRoche is a stress management and humor consultant who has appeared on seven PBS specials and written eight books.

Guests will also hear local Professor Elise Bolda from the Muskie School of Public Service tell her survival story. Quinn said Bolda had a major bypass surgery, has since lost 30 pounds and walks 7,000 steps a day. Her story, said Quinn, is an inspiration for other women who are at risk of heart disease.

“She’s very grateful and happy to have this second chance,” she said.

The 2011 Crystal Heart Award will be presented at the luncheon to Dr. Dora Anne Mills, the longtime face of public health in Maine, Quinn said. The award goes annually to a woman who has made a significant contribution to the field, she said.

According to the American Heart Association, it is important to alert women to the serious risk heart disease poses. The association says cardiovascular disease ranks first among all disease categories in hospital discharges for women. Nearly 37 percent of all female deaths in America occur from cardiovascular disease, including coronary heart disease, stroke and other diseases.

At age 40 and older, 23 percent of women and 18 percent of men will die within one year after a heart attack, and minority women are at a higher risk than white women, the association says.

The goal of the luncheon is to raise $250,000 in support of awareness, research, education and community programs to combat stroke and heart disease among women, Quinn said.

“All of our fundraising is done through events like this,” she said, adding that achieving a goal of 400 guests would set an attendance record.

Also, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Martin’s Point Health Care, Maine Heart Center and Bank of America are sponsoring four, half-hour, educational workshops during the luncheon.

“We pack a lot into the day and try to make it educational for people,” Quinn said.

Luncheon guests will also enjoy a meal replicated from a recent tasting event held at Westbrook Regional Vocational Center. Students in the school’s culinary arts program created heart-healthy dishes during a recorded competition. Luncheon guests will watch video from the tasting event and get to eat some of the students’ dishes, she said.

The American Heart Association’s “Go Red for Women” campaign is designed to increase awareness of heart attacks in women, and how to prevent and survive them.

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