Go Red For Women in Maine

the color redThe color red. Exciting. Stimulating. Attention-getting. It’s the highest arc of the rainbow, the color with the longest wavelength. It makes us react more quickly and forcefully. It is the color of blood, symbolizing life and vitality. It is Tuesday’s color.

Today, Tuesday March 6, 2012, everywhere I looked I saw red, even when I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. Red suits and dresses, scarves, jackets, ties, necklaces, earrings. Boas. Yes, bright red feathery boas. I got to bring one home as a souvenir. Red, red, red.

Maine Heart Association several women in red

Anyone guess where I was today? The American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women Luncheon! Here in Maine it’s also an educational forum. I attended a breakout session on mindfulness based stress reduction presented by Tara Healey from Harvard Pilgrim HealthCare, the luncheon’s major sponsor. I’ll write more about it in another post, but suffice it to say, I wasn’t seeing much red after the session — more like blue, which is supposed to be a calming color. When the session ended, I floated out of the room and followed a parade of red downstairs to the luncheon. If you’d like to try it yourself, at the end of the post I’ll give you a link to some of Tara’s meditations.

Go Red Chairwoman Betsey Timm gave us all a gracious welcome as we sat down to a heart healthy luncheon. The menu was determined a month earlier at a special tasting event at Westbrook Regional Vocational Center. Culinary Arts students prepared and served three different menus to Heart Association volunteers and guests, who voted for their favorites. The actual luncheon menu was prepared by the Holiday Inn by the Bay so the students who, of course, were all invited, got to relax and enjoy.

2012 Go Red For Women Luncheon menu
Mango Tango Salad
Jamaican Barbequed Chicken Breast
Lime Cilantro Quinoa
Sauteed Zucchini Coins

The Go Red For Women luncheon is primarily a fund raising event —money raised is used by the American Heart Association to “support awareness, research, education, and community programs to benefit women.”  Heart disease is the number one killer of both women and men in this country, but a woman may have different or more subtle symptoms and is more apt to attribute them to anything but a heart problem.

Heart attack signs in women (courtesy American Heart Association)

  • Pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain in center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and returns
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort
  • Cold sweat, nausea, or lightheadedness
  • As with men, a woman’s most common symptom is chest pain or discomfort, but women may be more likely to experience other symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.

If you have any of these heart attack signs, don’t wait more than five minutes before calling for help. Call 9-1-1 and get to a hospital right away.

Luncheon speakers
Mindy Beyer understands heart disease on a personal level. Only 33, she’s already had open heart surgery twice, one at 12 to repair a heart defect she was born with and another at 25, when a routine MRI found a life-threatening tear in her aorta. Looking stunning in a beautiful red dress that outlined her quite pregnant belly, Mindy shared her story. Even today, it can be risky for a woman with congenital heart defects to bear a child. She made many of us cry when she told us how much she looked forward to holding her baby son in her arms. You can read more about Mindy in the post I wrote last week.

We went from tears to raucous belly laughter when Loretta LaRoche took the stage. OMG, I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time! She’s a motivational speaker and humorist who specializes in stress management. It’s obvious that we all take ourselves too seriously! She forced us to laugh — too guffaw even — out loud!  She recommended that before we close our eyes each night, we remember three things that happened during the day that amazed us — three blessings she called them. For me today: so much red, laughing out loud, a nearly full moon against a pale blue sky.

The luncheon ended with a special award for Mercy Hospital CEO Eileen Skinner. She was honored with the Crystal Heart Award for her commitment to the fight against heart disease in women.

Such a great event, such a worthy cause. I wish you could have been there too. Wearing red — what else?!

So … want to lower your risk of developing heart disease? Reduce some stress? Try one of these meditations compliments of Tara Healey.