Surveys show two-thirds of all women don't even realize that heart disease is the leading cause of death for women. So first lady Laura Bush is working to educate women about the dangers of heart disease.
Mrs. Bush tells The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler, "This Friday, Feb. 6 is National Wear Red Day to remind women everywhere that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women."
"National Wear Red Day" is an initiative spearheaded by Glamour magazine, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), the American Heart Association (AHA), and WomenHeart. Feb. 6 is the centerpiece of "The Heart Truth" campaign, the national awareness campaign for women about heart disease.
Mrs. Bush notes that the message is not just for women. Some doctors are not aware heart disease is the leading cause of death for women.
She points out, "Today, when we have the proclamation designating February as American Heart Month, one of the women that I'm going to talk about, who will be here this morning, went to the doctor. She was a young woman. She went to the hospital. She said, 'I think I'm having a heart attack.' And the doctor said, 'No, you're too young and you're a woman.' She insisted that she have an EKG and she was in fact having a heart attack. We're trying to get the word out to women all over the country and to doctors as well."
But because heart disease is preventable, Mrs. Bush wants to empower women to be more proactive.
She says, "If you watch your weight, if you eat a healthy heart diet, if you get some exercise - and it really doesn't have to be that much exercise - if you can walk 30 minutes a day, you really make a huge difference in your life. If you quit smoking and if you exercise, and then go to your doctor and let your doctor take your blood pressure, your cholesterol level, diabetes check, and if you let him know if you have any family history of heart disease. He can find out what your real risks are."
Mrs. Bush notes since women are not aware of their heart health, they take longer to go to the hospital when they are having a heart attack. "And because of that, they suffer more heart damage than most men do when they have a heart attack."
The first lady began participating in this initiative last year. She was in New York City for the official kick-off as part of Fashion Week. This year, she'll be part of the "Heart Truth" campaign in different cities.
She says, "The Red Dress, designers have become involved to make sure women know about heart disease. And last year was the first year. This year, next week during Fashion Week, the red dresses will be in Bryant Park done by a lot of different American designers. And they're to remind women about heart health. And I'm really thrilled that the American design community is also involved in this, to get the message out to women."
Changing gears, Mrs. Bush was asked about the safety concerns related to terrorist threats.
"Certainly, our government is doing every single thing it possibly can on the local level, on the national level, on every level, to protect against a terrorist attack," she says. "But at the same time, that's just a fact of life now for Americans. And the good news is we know it will pass. Times will change eventually. But right now it's just the anxiety that we all deal with and it's important to remain vigilant, but it's also important to go about your lifestyle in a normal way."
As for the campaign, there's widespread speculation that some of President Bush's closest advisers would like to see him run up against Howard Dean in the general election, although John Kerry has got a couple of big wins under his belt. Either way, Mrs. Bush says it really doesn't matter who her husband will face in the general election.
She says, "We don't have any choice in it. We'll see what happens in the primaries. There will be plenty of time for politics."
And to the families of the 500 servicemen and women who died in Iraq since the war begun, she sends them her "love and my deepest sympathy. I know that every American is aware of the special burden that's placed on the families of our military men and women and the anxiety that they have while their loved ones are abroad, deployed overseas. And the sacrifice those families make. And my heart goes out to them."
Copyright 2004 CBS. All rights reserved.