American Heart Association Go Red For Women® Urges “Make It Your Mission” to Fight Heart Disease and Stroke

Would you save the life of your mother or sister if you could? Would you save your own life if you had the power to do so? According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular diseases (CVD) kill about 433,000 American women each year – or one woman per minute – simply because our mothers and sisters don’t realize that heart disease and stroke can kill.

More women die of heart disease and stroke than the next four causes of death combined, including all forms of cancer. One in three women die of heart disease, compared to one in 30 women that die of breast cancer. Yet women still don’t view heart disease and stroke as their leading health threats.
That’s why, in 2004, the American Heart Association created Go Red For Women®, a passionate, emotional, social initiative designed to create awareness of the No. 1 killer and to empower women to take charge of their heart health and to dispel the myths that CVD is an “old man’s disease.” Since its inception, Go Red For Women® quickly turned into a national movement that helped decrease annual female deaths from CVD from about 500,000 to 433,000. 

Go Red For Women®, nationally sponsored by Macy’s and Merck & Co., Inc., is supported by hundreds of civic groups, organizations and companies. In South Jersey, Virtua has demonstrated an unsurpassed commitment to women’s cardiovascular health in the region and throughout the Garden State by partnering with the American Heart Association as the exclusive, multi-year South Jersey Goes Red Sponsor to increase awareness and save lives from cardiovascular diseases.

“Ninety percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease,” said Dr. Ninfa Saunders, President and Chief Operating Officer of Virtua and a member of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association Central-Southern New Jersey Board of Directors. “Cardiovascular diseases are largely preventable. In fact, 80 percent of cardiac events in women may be prevented if women make the right choices for their hearts, involving diet, exercise and abstinence from smoking.”

In 2010, the American Heart Association set a strategic goal of reducing death and disability from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent while improving the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent by the year 2020. As part of that effort through the Go Red For Women® movement, the American Heart Association is urging every woman nationwide to “Make It Your Mission to Stop the No. 1 Killer.”
Burlington County Survivor Ambassadors Sharon Maffei, Celeste Masny and Gloria VanJaarsveld are three ladies from Marlton that are helping to reinforce that message. Maffei, 40, is a survivor of a congenital heart defect. She is part of a multi-generational family history of heart disease which includes her grandmother, mother, sister and niece. Masny, 62, is a survivor of two open-heart surgeries and VanJaarsveld, 84, is a survivor of triple-bypass and mitral valve surgeries. These three ladies help create awareness about heart disease and encourage other women to take charge of their health.
On Friday, February 4, women (and men) nationwide have the perfect opportunity to bring the Make It Your Mission message to life by celebrating the Eighth Annual National Wear Red Day For Women, a massive national public aware-ness day urging people from all walks of life, businesses, towns, schools, media, buildings and landmarks to “go red” and “glow red” to bring attention to the No. 1 killer.
On April 13, the American Heart Association’s Fifth Annual Southern New Jersey Go Red For Women® Luncheon will be held at The Merion in Cinnaminson. The annual event attracts more than 400 local women for a fun day of awareness, education, healthy eating and networking with friends and colleagues.
“Go Red For Women® encourages awareness of the issue of women and heart disease and the importance of action to save lives,” said Denise Kassekert, Executive Vice President of Relationship Banking at Beneficial Bank and the Chair of the upcoming Fifth Annual Southern New Jersey Go Red For Women® Luncheon.  “The Go Red movement harnesses the energy, passion and power women have to band together and collectively wipe out heart disease. It challenges them to know their risk and take action to reduce their personal risk. It also gives them the tools they need to lead a heart healthy life.”
Survivors of heart attack, heart surgery, cardiac arrest and stroke – or more commonly referred to as Survivor Ambassadors by the American Heart Association – are also recognized for their personal battles with cardiovascular diseases. Last year’s Go Red For Women® Survivor Ambassadors from throughout South Jersey included:    
  • Barbara Blackshear of Lawnside, a heart transplant survivor;
  • Mayor Tish Colombi of Haddonfield, a heart attack survivor;
  • Tanya Dargusch of Sewell, a survivor of heart attack and mitral valve surgery;
  • Karen DeCecco of Thorofare, who has heart damage and lives with dysrhythmia (irregular heartbeat);
  • Joette Ewen of Medford, a non-survivor who Goes Red in support of her husband, Jim, a heart attack survivor;
  • Val Henry of Mt. Laurel, a heart attack survivor;
  • Lilly Silberstein of Cherry Hill, a stroke survivor;
  • Terry Troy of Barrington, a stroke survivor, and
  • Gloria VanJaarsveld of Marlton, a survivor of triple-bypass and mitral valve surgeries
“Even though deaths for cardiovascular diseases are declining, there’s still much work to be done,” said Saunders, who served as co-chair of the Inaugural Southern New Jersey Go Red For Women® Luncheon in 2007. “Only 55 percent of women realize heart disease is their No. 1 killer and less than half know what are considered healthy levels for cardiovascular risk factors like blood pressure and cholesterol.”

Research shows that women who Go Red are more likely to make healthy choices:
  • More than one-third have lost weight.
  • Nearly fifty percent have increased their exercise.
  • Six out of ten have changed their diets.
  • More than forty percent have checked their cholesterol levels.
  • One-third have talked with their doctors about developing heart health plans.
Take your first step to a healthier you by taking action! Enroll in the free Go Red For Women® movement by calling the American Heart Association at 1-888-MY-HEART or visit, a premier, free source of information and education and the No. 1 online destination where women can make it their mission to fight heart disease and stroke.

You may look and feel healthy, but do you know your risk for developing heart disease in the next 10 years? Take the Go Red Heart CheckUp, an online tool that provides a 10-year, personal heart disease risk assessment. It only takes a few minutes to assess your main cardiovascular health risk factors. You’ll be rewarded with a personal action plan, a customized guide to help you achieve your fitness and nutrition goals and live heart smart.
You can also explore Go Red BetterU, a free 12-week online makeover that can change your life. Each week of the program focuses on a different area of your health and provides step-by-step tools, tips and guidance. You also get weekly reminders, a community forum and healthy recipes to keep you motivated.

“Women have a lot of roles and a lot of people depend on us,” said Kassekert. “We are mothers, wives, daughters, employees, friends, room mothers – the list goes on and on. We often put the needs of others before our own needs, our own health and we sometimes need to be reminded that we have to take care of ourselves. Go Red For Women® is the reminder that can save your life. On behalf of Beneficial Bank, I am proud to support this critical initiative.”

For more information about the Fifth Annual Southern New Jersey Go Red For Women Luncheon, call the American Heart Association State Office at (609) 208-0020 or visit


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