Mary Leah Coco (right) and her family at last year's Go Red for Women luncheon. She is featured in our February issue, where she recounts her personal experience with heart disease. Photo by Exquisite Images.

Healthy hearts: Go Red for Women’s campaign for change

Chocolate hearts, candied hearts, pillow hearts, teddy bears holding hearts, and heart-shaped flower arrangements are all that we typically see during the month of February. Happy-go-lucky couples young and in love, paired with Nicholas Sparks movie marathons, fill our days. However, the real hearts that sit beating in our chests should matter most during this season, and so the Go Red For Women campaign was born to raise awareness among women about heart disease.

The campaign quickly spiraled into a movement that annually brings thousands of women together to become “the trusted, passionate, relevant force for change to eradicate heart disease and stroke all over the world,” states the American Heart Association. On February 1, the local arm of the organization held the Baton Rouge Go Red for Women Luncheon at the Raising Cane’s River Center. However, the red dresses and stylish pumps worn by attendees represented more than a chic wardrobe. Rather, the adornments stood as a reminder of everything the American Heart Association advocates:

  • Providing women with opportunities to prioritize and take charge of their own health
  • Building communities that support and provide access to healthy choices
  • Demanding equal access to healthcare for all women and their families
  • Increasing women in STEM in upcoming generations

This event has been held for over 15 years to demonstrate just how large of an issue heart health is for the average American. The American Heart Association has calculated that cardiovascular diseases, including stroke, claim the life of a woman about every 80 seconds. In Baton Rouge, there are numerous poor health statistics with heart disease as the number one killer in the city. The organization notes that the city’s healthy vending policies and status as a “smoke-free city” are good first steps toward increasing healthy outcomes. 

“I volunteer for the American Heart Association not only because I believe wholeheartedly in their mission but also because their innovative research saved my life,” notes local heart disease survivor Mary Leah Coco on the local American Heart Association website. “It is my turn to do anything I can to save the life of someone else, and it is a privilege that the AHA allows me to do so. What could have been a tragedy for me has now become my life’s work.”

See the photos from this year’s Baton Rouge Go Red for Women luncheon here. And learn more about heart health with this story from the February issue of inRegister, on newsstands now.