CHICAGO (CBS) — February is American Heart Month — an attempt to focus the nation’s attention on heart disease.
The Palmer House, 17 E. Monroe St., is decked out in red to draw attention to heart trouble among women, which is the number-one killer of women in the United States, and kills more U.S. women each year than all cancers combined.
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The hotel’s commitment includes signs on the doors to the hotel, in the lobby and in other conspicuous places. Staff members are being encouraged to wear red.
The American Heart Association is urging women throughout the Chicago area to wear red, especially on Friday, which the Heart Association has designated “National Wear Red Day.”
The Palmer House commitment is the doing of the hotel’s director of reservations and customer care, Elizabeth Hein, who suffered a heart attack in 1997 at the age of 27, despite living a healthy lifestyle. She was a big runner, ate healthy foods and was not overweight. Yet Hein said she was fortunate to survive her heart attack.
“I had a really great landlady, actually, and she drove me to the emergency room,” Hein said.
Now, as a hotel manager and a volunteer for the American Heart Association, she said she is attempting to make sure that patrons of both sexes know it’s Heart Month.
Hein said urging people to watch for signs of heart disease is a harder sell than watching for cancer or other diseases because it lacks the debilitating side effects so visible with cancer.
“You can seer the effects of chemotherapy. You can see the loss of hair. You can see all of that,” she said. “You can’t see heart disease.”
She said, with minimally-invasive techniques such as angioplasty, many heart patients don’t even have a scar to show. The medical director of the Rush Heart Center for Women, Dr. Annabelle Volgman, said if women knew the warning signs, more would live.
“It’s so preventable,” she said. “They just need to know the risk factors and lower those risk factor. That by itself can help them save their lives.”
“It’s more important after menopause to be very particular about lowering their total cholesterol,” she said.
There’s good cholesterol as well as bad cholesterol, and Dr. Volgman said women and men should strive to increase good cholesterol levels, and to keep triglyceride levels down.
Warning signs for women can include severe lower back pain and retention of water, which is not normal at post-menopausal women.
Hein said her mother had both before dying of a heart attack in 2005.
Other warning signs of heart trouble among women can include jaw pain, night sweats and a continual tired feeling.