In speeches sandwiched between a runway show of Escada's spring fashions and a heart-healthy luncheon at the National Museum of Women in the Arts,the first lady and other women's advocates asked ambassadors' wives in the audience to increase education about the risks of heart disease in their countries.
Cardiovascular diseases,including coronary heart disease and strokes,affect 80 million people in the U.S. and are the leading killer of both men and women nationwide. Although heart disease is most commonly associated with men,it causes nearly two of every five female deaths nationwide,according to the American Heart Association.
Worldwide,it caused an estimated three in 10 deaths in 2005,according to the World Health Organization.
The speakers urged audience members – about 150 people – to use their influence to better educate women and medical professionals in their countries about heart disease. They emphasized that it affects women of all different races and body types.
“Heart disease doesn't care whether you wear a size 2 … or whether you wear a size 20,” said Dr. Susan Bennett,the keynote speaker and clinical director of the Women's Heart Program at the George Washington University Cardiovascular Center.
Bennett told the women they should consider their health as carefully as they would consider the purchase of a fine dress,scrutinizing test results and medical advice like the buttons,seams and other details of couture.
Lifestyle changes,such as healthier eating and more frequent exercise,can decrease heart disease by as much as 80 percent,she said.
Bennett is also the spokeswoman for The Heart Truth,a national heart disease education campaign advocated by the first lady and the president,who proclaimed February as American Heart Month.
Like the models who ended the fashion show in red dresses,suits and shirts,Bush wore a red suit to symbolize women's heart health.
She encouraged the audience to “put on your red dresses,speak to your sisters and your mother and your grandparents and all of your friends about what they can do to have a healthy heart” and then wished everyone a happy Valentine's Day.
Ambassador Nancy Goodman Brinker,the U.S. Chief of Protocol and a longtime advocate of breast cancer awareness and other women's health concerns,also wore red as host of the event,which was presented by Neiman Marcus.