Go Red for Women



Money, I’m Home! February is American Heart Month and it’s time to Go Red for Women! Join us and our guest, Jeanne Lesarge-Bono, executive director of the American Heart Association in Grand Rapids, as we explore heart health, hidden dangers, Go Red for Women, and more. It’s an episode you won’t want to miss!



Lynne Jarman-Johnson (LJJ): Money I’m Home. Welcome in everyone, I’m Lynne Jarman-Johnson. Thank you so much for joining us today, and we are with Consumers Credit Union and today the American Heart Association. And I’ll tell you what, it is that time of year and every day should be that time of year. And I’ll tell you why, Jeanne LeSarge-Bono was with us today. She’s the executive director of the American Heart Association in Grand Rapids.

She’s also my elementary friend.

Is that crazy?

Jeanne LeSarge-Bono (JLB): Yeah, it’s beyond crazy, isn’t it? The coolest thing.

LJJ: I know! Walks in the door, we both look at each other and just start grinning.

JLB: We know you.

LJJ: Yeah, I remember lunch bags, little lunch bags.

JLB: That’s exact… And hot dog lunches.

You remember those…

LJJ: Yeah, yeah, I got them once. Those aren’t very healthy.

JLB: No, no.

Oh, we probably all things in moderation. We probably got in twice a year, so.

LJJ: Well, Consumers is a wonderful partner with American Heart Association in the West Michigan market. We are really pleased because we support Go Red for Women in both Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo and we also hey, stop into our offices in February because you can also donate and have those wonderful red hearts, with names of those you love or those that you just want to give a little shout out to.

JLB: Yeah.

LJJ: It would be great so stop in, but I’ll tell you, we’ve got some big things coming up. We’re going to talk about the events and a little bit Jeanne, but I really kind of want to get a little bit of background on you. So, when did you start working with the American Heart Association?

JLB: I joined the American Heart Association, two years ago, so I’ve been with them as the executive director here and covering Grand Rapids, West Michigan in general.

LJJ: It is a busy, busy place.

JLB: Oh yeah, and we’re just coming into our really busy season too, because February is heart month.

LJJ: So, tell us a little bit about why you have a passion for the American Heart Association. I know for me, when you look back at your life, I have a father who died very early of congestive heart failure, a brother who has that same genetic tendencies. And the amazing thing to me is how much change there has been. But what I really want to get to is women and heart disease.

JLB: Yeah, women are the number one health risk for women is still cardiovascular disease. And back in 2004, the American Heart Association really had a challenge. They recognized that people didn’t really realize that women even had heart attacks, they viewed it as an old man’s disease, just like you would see on TV or through Hollywood, they clutched the chest and they drop. They didn’t perceive it as something women had, and so they started the campaign. Go Red for Women in 2004. It’s our 15-year anniversary this year. And it’s really about increasing awareness that it is the number one health risk out there for women. Cardiovascular disease is… So how do we get more information out there? And the unique thing is, is that women don’t display their warning signs and symptoms, the same as men do. So, it’s really about educating what is so unique about the way we display heart attack symptoms and being able to have the community and healthcare providers more people recognize it, so we can save more lives.

LJJ: What is you the difference between the symptoms?

JLB: Well, men will predominantly… I’ll say experience that pressure on the chest, or the pain in the chest. The sense of pain going down their left arm. For example, women may experience flu-like symptoms, so they may have nausea, they may have vomiting, they might experience fatigue, shortness of breath, pain in their shoulders, pain in both arms. I had a woman who experienced pain in just her chin and was experiencing cardiac arrest, but they almost all will tell you that they knew inside their inner voice was telling them that something was wrong.

It wasn’t the flue like it’s always the flu, something was wrong. And so, it’s about educating others to say, if they’re telling you something’s not right or if you’re bothering to call your mom or a girlfriend and say something’s not right, “ I have this flu”, you need to call 911 or you need to call your doctor and get checked out because you could very well be experiencing a heart attack.

LJJ: And when you say that women, this is the number one cause of, why is it that we don’t hear about it more, it seems like, Okay, we’re going to talk about it in February, but this must… It’s really scary.

JLB: Yeah, yeah it really is. And I think getting that education and that information out there, it’s not cardiovascular disease, and stroke, they really aren’t as, for lack of a better term as sexy as some chronic diseases because they’re not as visible. I can be sitting right next to you and have cardio vascular disease and you’re not going to know it.

So, it doesn’t have that same visibility, but educating people out that it’s not the norm, and that we need to do more for our cardiovascular health, is incredibly important. So, things like blood pressure, high cholesterol, BMI, things along that line that are part of the risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease need to just have a higher level of awareness so that we can prevent it.

LJJ: Are the numbers as important for men and women, when you’re taking about BMI, which is body mass index, when you’re talking about, you know, the blood pressure.

JLB: Absolutely, in fact, since Go Red for Women has started it narrowed the gap in the disparity between deaths of men and women.  Although, it’s still higher odds with women than men, it’s still more predominant, but it’s really about controlling those risk factors. We call them “life’s simple seven, and the reason is that 80% of cardiovascular disease is preventable.

So, life simple seven are things like, stop smoking, move more, so get some exercise, control your cholesterol, control your blood pressure, control your BMI, control your blood sugar. And I’m missing one.

Don’t know what it is off the top of my head.

LJJ: We’ll get it, we’ll get it. I heard a story the other day that if you clench your fist, you will remember what that is. Try that Jeanne, try that.

JLB: Right.

LJJ: One of the things that we’ve been talking about is the disparity between women and men, but what are the things that you are mentioning, or you’ve talked about, is that it really isn’t difficult. There’s a simple way that we can all live healthier lives.

JLB: Yeah, if you’re making incremental improvements in the way you eat, controlling different risk factors such as your cholesterol and your blood pressure, if you’re getting away from a sedentary lifestyle. So, if you get up and you’re just moving more, if you’re making those incremental improvements you are reducing your risk of a lot of chronic diseases, not just cardiovascular disease and stroke, but other diseases are as well. So, you don’t have to be a triathlete, but you do have to improve some things and make those small steps to improve more, and it can result in big changes for you.

LJJ: And when you’re talking about, you’re the Executive Director of the Heart Association, and yet we talk about strokes, which some people will say. Well, that’s a heart attack, for your brain. How tied together is the healthy journey to try to really understand that cardiovascular affects so many parts of your body.

JLB: The cardiovascular system touches every organ in the body. So, if you think about it, keeping your cardiovascular system healthy is going to impact a lot of different things, and some of the same risk factors that impact cardiovascular health are going to impact a lot of other chronic diseases, so diabetes, and heart disease, are very intertwined, and, and have a lot of the same issues and risk factors. Cancer certainly does as well. We know that eating healthy and being active can help reduce your odds of that as well.

We also know, recently the AHA has started on a new initiative around brain health because studies have shown that the same risk factors that impact cardiovascular disease impact the brain and in particular the brain degradation as you age. So, from a prevention perspective, if you’re really working on life simple seven you can reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia and really improve the quality of your brain in your mind, as you age.

LJJ: Jeanne, tell us a little bit about why you personally have such a passion.

JLB: It’s interesting, when I first looked into the American Heart Association, I don’t think I realized myself how prevalent cardiovascular disease, and stroke, were out in the population. I certainly didn’t realize it was the number one health risk more than all forms of cancer combined, and I didn’t realize that it was the number of one risk for women.

Now, I knew from a close personal friend in high school whose mother had died from heart attack that women did have a heart attack, but that was the first time I had ever heard of it. In my family I have brothers who have atrial fib. I’ve got a brother who had a widow-maker heart attack, my dad had a quadruple bypass. I recently lost my mom to vascular dementia that was really a result of a-fib and some mini-strokes, TIAs. So, it’s personal. And I think for a lot of people, if you took a poll, and said, how many have somebody in your family that has heart disease or cardio vascular disease or stroke? You see a lot of hands go up. It’s just not as talked about as something that we really should be getting our arms around and controlling.

So, my mission is to say, “Well how do we get the news out there, and how do we do more about improving the health of our community and reducing this terrible disease?

LJJ: You talked about this, the simple seven… Yeah, is it really that simple?

JLB: It really is, life simple seven is very simple, things like I’m going to qualify that a little bit. Stopping smoking is hard.

We know it, but I think the population really does know that smoking is incredibly dangerous, to your health, all together. So, I think that one’s a tough one.

Moving more, again, even if you’re exercising, the recommendation is 150 minutes a week for an adult, that sounds like a ton, but if you break it down to 30 minutes a day, okay. I might not have 30 minutes a day, but it’s just as healthy, to get up and move twice a day and get your heart huffing and puffing at 15 minutes, twice a day as it is 30 minutes once a day. And that’s something that I think is well within reach for everybody. So, I can get up out of my office chair and go for a walk, go pick up the mail, get running my errands, through the store and get moving it at a hefty rate, and I’m doing something good for my heart. Eating better. That’s another one where we say if you just add color to your plate. So, if your plate as brown and white, it’s not healthy. If you’ve got color on there, red, orange, green. Even if I’m adding one thing of color per day, you’re improving your health. So, it’s little things like that. If your physician tells you that you need to work on controlling your blood pressure. Okay folks, we’ve got to listen to that and not ignore it. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not a high risk for you. So, it’s really about controlling those factors right there and it can be simple, but we have to be aware of it and we have to take those little steps to improve.

LJJ: The other simple thing that anybody can do is, a volunteer, become a part of the Heart Association and one way is coming up in the West Michigan market, and that’s the most fun lunch in.

JLB: Yeah, it really is. Go Red for Women is the most fun, and that’s about all women standing up together to fight against cardiovascular disease and strokes.

It’s a lot of fun. Kalamazoo’s Lunch in is on February 8, and Grand Rapids lunch in is on February 13, and that’s where we get all area women together to stand up and do something about cardiovascular disease.

LJJ: Yeah, I can tell you that it’s not your normal lunch in, no, right?

I mean, you’ve got some absolutely phenomenal auction prizes that are great, but the really cool thing too is there actually are activities that you can do, like I watched my team get their nails done.

That was awesome!

JLB: Yeah, it was red.

LJJ: Everything was red.

JLB: We get very serious about going red for the Go Red for Women and National Wear Red Day, which is always the first Friday in February. So, we do that, and we have pampering stations at the lunch in, we do have health screenings at the lunch in. So, you have the ability to get your blood pressure checked or your cholesterol checked. We do have a hands only CPR demonstration there and just a lot of fun networking and a great silent auction. Silent Auction is a ball.

LJJ: I’ve nabbed a few things.

Yeah, over the years.

JLB: I have too.

LJJ: So, you’ve been in the position for two years, what do you think… What’s a day in the life of Jeanne look like, and what just makes you smile every day?

JLB: Oh goodness, every day is slightly different. And that’s the nice part about it. It’s not exactly the same. The thing I would say is the most fun is making connections out there in the community and spreading awareness, talking to people about cardiovascular disease and stroke, getting others involved and making it real, making it personal because I think it’s more effective when it’s that way than just a statistic. So, talking about ways to build a healthier workforce, for example, climbing the stairs and getting sugary beverages out of your diet and drinking water, healthy things that’s probably the most fun. Some of the other fun things I really like is talking to people out in the community who have had saves due to things like our training around hands-only CPR.

That’s one of the most powerful things that you can run into and it really validates your work that you’re making a difference out there. And it’s that partnership throughout the community, it’s from the schools to the businesses to the hospitals and the care providers and rehab groups.

LJJ: I’ll tell you, we value our partnership so much. So, one of the things that we would really encourage you to do is head over to the website to really see what you’re talking about Jeanne. I think that you just mentioned hands-only CPR. There’s some confusion as to, what am I supposed to be learning?

So, we can do that. And let’s talk about that the next time.

JLB: Wonderful, let’s do that.

LJJ: Alright, great, thank you Jeanne so much for being with us.

JLB: Thank you!

LJJ: Money I’m home, from finance to fitness. Thanks so much for joining us today.

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