Department of Health and Human Services

News Release

Friday, Feb. 21, 2003

Contact: NHLBI Communications Office
(301) 496-4236


HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson today proclaimed the third Friday in February, February 21, as Women's Heart Day. Secretary Thompson also highlighted "The Red Dress Project," the centerpiece of a national campaign — The Heart Truth — from the National Institutes of Health's National, Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), designed to raise awareness that heart disease is the number one killer of American women.

"Only about one-third of American women know that heart disease is the leading cause of death among women. In fact, one in three women dies of heart disease," Secretary Thompson said. "The good news is that heart disease is preventable. There are simple steps to women's heart health: Be sure to exercise, eat fruits and vegetables, and don't smoke. Women also should talk to a health professional, find out about risk factors, and take action to control them."

The Red Dress Project of The Heart Truth campaign includes a collection of 19 red dresses from America's most prestigious designers and a specially designed Red Dress pin from the Angela Cummings Studio. The red dresses were on view last week during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York where First Lady Laura Bush announced the red dress as the national symbol of women and heart disease awareness with the message that "heart disease doesn't care what you wear."

"Women need to recognize that heart disease is a women's health issue," said NHLBI Director Claude Lenfant, M.D. "The NHLBI designed The Heart Truth campaign to be an urgent wake-up call to get women to take heart disease seriously and motivate them to take action to protect their heart health."

Heart disease risk factors include those that are beyond women's control — family history of early heart disease and age, and those that can be controlled. The risk factors that can be controlled are smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, overweight/obesity, physical inactivity and diabetes. While having even one risk factor is dangerous, having multiple risk factors is especially serious, because risk factors can worsen each other's effects.

"We're delighted that Secretary Thompson has proclaimed today — and the third Friday of every February — as Women's Heart Day. Raising awareness that there is a problem is the first step in getting women to make the changes in their lives that can help lead them to a healthy heart," said Irene Pollin, president and founder of the Sister to Sister Foundation.

The Red Dress Project will be on public display Monday, Feb. 24 through Sunday, March 2 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Great Hall of the Hubert H. Humphrey Building, located at 200 Independence Ave., S.W. Visitors will be required to present photo identification to enter the building.

In addition to working with the fashion industry on the Red Dress Project and joining with the Sister to Sister Foundation in supporting Women's Heart Day, other groups are working to help spread the messages of The Heart Truth campaign, including the American Heart Association, the Office on Women's Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, WomenHeart: the National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease, and other organizations committed to advancing women's heart health.

The Heart Truth campaign also includes women-targeted consumer television, radio and print public service advertisements (PSAs), which use hard-hitting visuals and testimonials to deliver a wake-up call and help women focus on both their "outer" and "inner" selves. The PSAs are supplemented with consumer materials including a brochure on heart disease (available through 1-800-575-WELL); The Healthy Heart Handbook for Women, a comprehensive guide for women on detecting and controlling heart disease risk factors; a speaker's kit to assist community leaders and interested consumers in spreading the word about heart disease to women at the local level; and Web pages on NHLBI's Web Site: The Red Dress pin will be available to the public on the campaign's Web page in early April.

Additional information on The Heart Truth campaign and related topics, can be found at the following Web sites:;; and

Editor's Note: Audio soundbites from this event will be available on the HHS Web site after 4 p.m. Friday. Please link to A video satellite newsfeed featuring event b-roll, soundbites, and one-on-ones will be available at 3 p.m. on Friday. C-Band Satellite Coordinates:

3:00 - 3:15 p.m. EST
Telstar 5 Transponder 8
Downlink Frequency: 3860 Horizontal
Audio: 6.2/6.8

Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials are available at