Lacking heart when women need it most

Throughout the month of October, we were bombarded with the color pink. In nearly every store I entered, I found pink T-shirts emblazoned with phrases like, “We’re in this together,” and “I’m a Survivor!” This

Throughout the month of October, we were bombarded with the color pink. In nearly every store I entered, I found pink T-shirts emblazoned with phrases like, “We’re in this together,” and “I’m a Survivor!” This is understandable, because, after all, October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

It is unquestionably important to note that breast cancer is a devious and malicious life-taker in the United States, killing nearly 40,000 women each year. But contrary to pink T-shirt sales, breast cancer is not the leading cause of death for American women.

It is actually heart disease that most often steals the women from our lives. Half a million mothers, sisters, aunts and friends die every year from this cardiac complication, which amounts to about one heart disease-related death per minute. An even more striking statistic notes that heart disease accounts for approximately 43 percent of female deaths in America. Eight million women living today are suffering from heart disease. More than 425,000 women have heart attacks each year. Of those 425,000 women, 267,000 will die – six times as many as breast cancer.

February is American Heart Month. Have you seen any red T-shirts?

During October, the Philadelphia Eagles sold pink jerseys, caps and neckties. The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, a well-known leader in breast cancer support, promoted almost every imaginable product in pink – from socks to tote bags to specialized teddy bears. The same organization also branded its name to the Komen Race for the Cure.

On Oct. 5, many corporations participated in Lee National Denim Day, a fund-raiser that allows employees to wear jeans to work in exchange for a $5 donation toward breast cancer research. Yoplait USA joined in a similar project, known as Save Lids to Save Lives, by asking consumers to mail in pink lids from their yogurt products during the months of September and October. For every lid the company received, 10 cents were donated. Even Temple joined the monthlong national support session this year by selling pink paraphernalia in the front of the school store.

I think this outreach of devotion – both through dollars and 31 days of an entirely pink nation – is indicative of an inherently good nature within the American public. Regardless of any criticism about the greed and materialism of our culture, it cannot be denied that the U.S. population tirelessly supports those with breast cancer.

If the advocates of breast cancer research are able to gain support from so many individuals, shouldn’t heart disease, a much more frequent and deadly illness, be given equal attention during its special month?

I’ve seen plenty of red in the Valentine sections of stores this February but very little in the places that formerly housed enough pink to put Barbie to shame.

This is not to say that there are few supporters of heart disease awareness. There are many products – including red T-shirts – available on the American Heart Association Web site ( Feb. 3 was National Wear Red Day, an event similar to Lee National Denim Day. also sells jewelry and accessories as well as providing books about cardiac health, fitness and healthy eating; all proceeds go toward the fight against heart disease.

Yet, the proof is in the stores. Despite the prevalence of heart disease in our nation, the same attention is not paid to American Heart Month as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Today is Valentine’s Day, a feast dedicated to matters of the heart. Celebrate the holiday by visiting the American Heart Association’s Web site and purchasing a red T-shirt of your very own or simply contributing money. You can specify the amount and the type of donation you’d prefer – memorial, tribute or general – and the proceeds help fight heart disease and stroke. Do it for the women in your life.

Erica Palan can be reached at

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