The Go Red for Women Campaign

Woman holding heart shape balloon in autumn light
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February is American Heart Month, and, given that obesity is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, this is an excellent opportunity to become educated about cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States as well as worldwide.

Women in particular may not be aware of their lifetime risk for cardiovascular disease—which is why, in 2003, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), the American Heart Association (AHA), and other organizations dedicated to supporting women’s health launched a national campaign to raise awareness of heart disease as the leading cause of death in women.

What Is Go Red for Women?

In 2003, the NHLBI chose the red dress as a national symbol for women and heart disease awareness, and the AHA and other organizations adopted this symbol as well. According to the AHA, “Go Red for Women encourages awareness of the issue of women and heart disease, and also action to save lives. The movement harnesses the energy, passion and power women have to band together and collectively wipe out heart disease.”

The Go Red for Women campaign also challenges women to know their risk factors for heart disease and stroke and to take action to reduce their personal risk.

What Is Cardiovascular Disease?

The term cardiovascular disease, or CVD, refers to disease of the heart and blood vessels. This includes the blood vessels that supply the brain, so CVD also includes cerebrovascular disease, which encompasses strokes and transient ischemic attacks (TIAs).

Other specific conditions included under the broad diagnosis of CVD are: high blood pressure, or hypertension; coronary artery disease; valvular heart disease, which is disease affecting the heart valves; congenital heart disease, which is heart disease that is present at birth—essentially, birth defects affecting the heart; heart failure; peripheral arterial disease (PAD); and many others.

Why Target Women?

As noted by the AHA, in the past heart disease and heart attacks have been predominantly associated with men. This has been emphasized throughout the popular media and movies with the traditional image of the middle-aged man clutching his chest and collapsing due to heart attack. What isn’t often seen are the more subtle manifestations of heart disease, heart attack and stroke that women are more likely to experience.

The AHA also notes: “Historically, men have been the subjects of the research done to understand heart disease and stroke, which has been the basis for treatment guidelines and programs. This led to an oversimplified, distorted view of heart disease and risk, which has worked to the detriment of women.”

In fact, one out of every three women dies of heart disease and stroke. Cardiovascular disease is the No.1 killer of women, but a significant percentage of women still fail to recognize this. Cardiovascular disease kills more women every year than all forms of cancer combined.

Go Red Day

To raise awareness for the Go Red campaign and for heart disease in women, the AHA, NHLBI, and other like-minded organizations have designated the first Friday of February as “National Wear Red Day.” Everyone is encouraged to wear red on this date to show support for the fight against cardiovascular disease in women.


American Heart Association. About Go Red. Accessed at on February 2, 2015.

Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs). World Health Organization fact sheet. Accessed at on June 9, 2014.

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