Col. Mark Smith, commander of Fox Army Health Center, and Col. Bob Pastorelli, Garrison commander, discuss the importance of raising awareness for women's heart disease prior to signing the National Wear Red Day Proclamation for Redstone Arsenal.

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Nearly every minute a woman dies from heart disease.

The American Heart Association's statistic is alarming, but Redstone Arsenal has made a commitment to change it.

Col. Mark Smith, commander of Fox Army Health Center, and Col. Bob Pastorelli, Garrison commander, joined forces to raise awareness for women's heart disease, with the help of The Heart Truth, a national awareness campaign by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. The duo signed a National Wear Red Day proclamation Jan. 26, cementing the installation's commitment to women's health.

"If we are going to be a well society, we need to make sure that the ladies in our life, who are so important to us, are aware of the dangers out there, and one of those dangers is heart disease," Pastorelli said. "We need to be guardians to make sure we get the word out to bring a better awareness."

Pastorelli, Smith and the rest of the installation will take one day out to raise awareness for women's heart disease on Friday, Feb. 5, National Wear Red Day. Across the country, men and women will don the color red to raise awareness of the number one killer in women.

"We set out three years ago to inspire others to live a lifetime of wellness," Smith said. "We need to be well ourselves."

That wellness starts with awareness. While awareness has increased since the creation of The Heart Truth in 2002, still only one in five women believe that heart disease is the greatest health threat for women, according to the American Heart Association.

"Many Americans believe that cancer, especially breast cancer, is the leading cause of death for women in the United States," said Valerie Francis, nurse educator in the preventive medicine department at Fox. "However, nearly twice as many women die from heart disease than all forms of cancer."

Risk factors for women for heart disease include high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, being overweight, being physically inactive, having a family history of heart disease, as well as age - 55 or older for women - according to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. While some factors are out of a woman's control such as age and family history, factors such as weight and physical activity a woman is able to change and improve. The more risk factors a woman has, the more likely she is to develop heart disease.

"Healthcare providers can empower their patients by encouraging them to make healthy lifestyle changes, which includes: tobacco cessation, regular exercise, healthy eating, weight management and managing blood pressure and cholesterol levels, as directed by one's healthcare provider," Francis said.

Fox Army Health Center will celebrate Friday's National Wear Red Day by hosting a National Heart Truth Day Program in the Fox Den. The program will pair opportunities for exercise with health center employee Kathy Smith's own experience with heart disease. Smith will speak from 11:15 to 11:45 a.m.; rope jumping will follow from noon to 12:20 p.m., followed by stairwell exercises from 12:20 to 12:45. Everyone can participate in the day of awareness by wearing red.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16