News Release

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Even With Heart Disease Awareness on the Rise, Prevention Remains Critically Important for American Women

The Heart Truth campaign urges women to take action.

In recognition of American Heart Month, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and its heart disease awareness campaign — The Heart Truth — is reminding all American women that heart disease prevention remains critically important, despite that fact that awareness is at an all time high. More women than ever know that heart disease is their leading killer, yet millions of women are at risk, at increasingly younger ages.

Even with increased awareness, 80 percent of midlife women (ages 40 to 60) still have one or more of the modifiable risk factors — high blood pressure, high cholesterol, overweight/obesity, physical inactivity, diabetes, and smoking. Sixty percent of younger women, ages 20-39, have one or more of these risk factors. Recent data show high rates of overweight/obesity in younger women, which may lead to higher rates of heart disease in later years.

"Women are developing heart disease at younger ages, and our research shows that many women, particularly at younger ages, still do not recognize their personal risk," says Susan Shurin, M.D., acting director, NHLBI. "What young women need to realize is that leading a healthy lifestyle in their 20s and 30s sets them up for a long and healthy life."

Although overall heart disease deaths in women have gone down, the death rate in young women increases threefold between the third and fourth decade of life. This suggests that the late 20s and early 30s is a critical time for women to take action to reduce their risk, according to Dr. Shurin.

Activities such as National Wear Red Day on Friday, Feb. 5 and The Heart Truth's signature Red Dress Collection 2010 fashion event on Thursday, Feb. 11 encourage Americans to raise awareness of heart disease in women. The Red Dress is the national symbol for women and heart disease awareness, and helps remind women to recognize and take action to reduce their risks for heart disease.

Statistics show that heart disease risk factors are subject to a multiplier effect. This means that having even one risk factor, such as high blood pressure, can double a woman’s chance of developing heart disease. Two risk factors, such as overweight and high blood pressure, increase risk fourfold, and having three or more risk factors increases risk tenfold.

Women can prevent heart disease by reducing their risk, and following a heart-healthy lifestyle. An annual physical can provide a risk factor numbers check — blood pressure, cholesterol, body mass index, and, if appropriate, blood glucose — and the opportunity to start a discussion about physical activity levels and smoking to develop a personal plan to reduce their risk. Such a plan would incorporate heart healthy eating, getting regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, and not smoking. Regardless of a woman's age, NHLBI research shows that it's never too early or too late to take action.

As another way to raise awareness and encourage heart healthy living among women, The Heart Truth's Red Dress Collection 2010 will go behind the seams on the opening night of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week to remind women it's what’s inside that counts. A healthy heart means a longer, healthier life. More than 20 of today's hottest celebrities will walk the runway in red dresses created by America's top designers to encourage women to protect their heart health and inspire them to take action.

"Women have tremendous power to reduce their risk of heart disease, and I am delighted that our sponsors and the fashion and entertainment industries will again join with The Heart Truth to bring this urgent heart health message to millions of women and encourage them to take action to protect their hearts," said Dr. Shurin.

The Heart Truth's Red Dress Collection 2010 is presented by Diet Coke. "Diet Coke is pleased to be partnering with The Heart Truth for the third year to help spread the message about heart health and living positively," said Caren Pasquale Seckler, assistant vice president, Coke Trademark Brands. "Heart health continues to be a priority for Diet Coke consumers and for our brand. Through our powerful network, we have tremendous opportunities to remind women, especially younger women, how to stay active and live a more well-balanced, heart healthy life." National sponsors of the 2010 Collection include Swarovski, and Tylenol and St. Joseph Aspirin; the make-up partner is Bobbi Brown Cosmetics.

Celebrity participants in this year’s Red Dress Collection Fashion Show include: Bethenny Frankel, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Felicity Huffman, Dania Ramirez, Dara Torres, Estelle, Heidi Klum, Swoosie Kurtz, Jewel, Jordin Sparks, Kim Kardashian, Kimora Lee, Kristin Chenoweth, Mamie Gummer, Raven–Symoné, Regina King, Robin Roberts, and Rose McGowan.

Participating designers in the 2010 Collection include: Isabella Oliver, Donna Karan, Oscar de la Renta, Ohne Titel, Rachel Roy, Zac Posen, John Galliano, Monique Lhuillier, Badgley Mischka, Marchesa, Kouture, Daniel Swarovski, Michael Kors, Tadashi Shoji, Tracy Reese, J. Crew Collection, and Dolce & Gabbana.

A selection of designer dresses worn by celebrities in The Heart Truth’s Red Dress Collection Fashion Show will be auctioned off through a partnership with Clothes Off Our Back, at The auction starts in February and will run through early March. Proceeds will benefit the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health on behalf of The Heart Truth in support of women's heart health education and research.

For additional information, visit or email your inquiry to

Please Note: Participants in The Heart Truth's Red Dress Collection 2010 Fashion Show were confirmed at time of release and are subject to change.

About The Heart Truth

The Heart Truth® is a national awareness campaign for women about heart disease sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Through the campaign, NHLBI leads the nation in a landmark heart health awareness movement that is being embraced by millions who share the common goal of better heart health for all women.

The centerpiece of The Heart Truth is the Red Dress, which was introduced as the national symbol for women and heart disease awareness in 2002 by NHLBI. The Red Dress® reminds women of the need to protect their heart health, and inspires them to take action.

To learn more, visit

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Part of the National Institutes of Health, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute plans, conducts, and supports research related to the causes, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of heart, blood vessel, lung, and blood diseases; and sleep disorders. The Institute also administers national health education campaigns on women and heart disease, healthy weight for children, and other topics. NHLBI press releases and other materials are available online at

The Heart Truth, its logo, The Red Dress, and Heart Disease Doesn't Care What You Wear — It's the #1 Killer of Women are trademarks of HHS.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

NIH…Turning Discovery Into Health®