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Go Red for Women Luncheon Gets to the Heart of Health Awareness Campaign

Annual fundraiser for American Heart Association-Central Coast Division puts the focus on fighting heart disease, the No. 1 killer of women

The American Heart Association-Central Coast Division thrives on educating the community and saving lives by healing hearts and building healthier lives. The annual Go Red for Women health fair and luncheon, themed “Look, Learn, Love,” served up a dose of inspiration and hope, while attracting hundreds of local supporters to speak out and take part in the fight against heart disease, the No. 1 killer of women.

Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort was basked in hues of red on March 9 as attendees donned fashionable red attire at the luxurious oceanfront resort. The event commenced with a health fair inside the Sierra Madre Room that offered free echocardiograms and cholesterol screening, as well as CPR and stroke information. Guests also were treated to fitness assessments and a farm-to-table culinary presentation by Laurence Hauben, esteemed local chef and Food & Home magazine’s food and wine editor.

As the afternoon sun climbed overhead in a cloudless blue sky, guests made their way to the stunning Plaza del Sol outdoor rotunda, mingling between tables and relishing the breathtaking views of the shimmering Pacific Ocean.

Master of Ceremonies Andrew Firestone welcomed the crowd of business and community leaders, board members and volunteers to the luncheon, and thanked everyone for their support and encouraged onlookers to donate whatever more they could offer to the American Heart Association-Central Coast Division.

“Whatever contributions you can give today will go toward preventive and education programs and groundbreaking research that has saved lives in our community,” Firestone said.

Jill Fonte, marketing director at Sansum Clinic, stressed that heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death for women older than 25, and encouraged women to take charge of their health through proper diet and exercise, and educate themselves about signs of heart disease in an effort to reduce their personal risk.

Fonte also paid tribute to the Circle of Red, a society of local women who support the Go Red for Women’s events and outreach programs in Santa Barbara County.

“The Circle of Red women are taking a stand and making a statement that women’s heart health is a critical matter,” Fonte said. “And I encourage others to think about joining because this is a way to make a significant difference in the community.”

Since 2004, the Go Red for Women’s movement has striven to raise awareness of cardiovascular disease that claims the lives of nearly 50,000 American women each year. Although heart disease results in nearly 1 in 3 female deaths, only 57 percent of women in the United States are aware that it’s the number one killer of women.

The Go Red for Women campaign vows to dispel the myth that heart disease “is an older man disease,” which is a common misconception among women.

As a result of the staggering numbers, AHA has set a goal of reducing death and disability from cardiovascular disease and strokes by 20 percent, and also improving the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent by the year 2020.

AHA reaches out to patients nationwide, offering a range of online educational programs such as the Heart 360 Cardiovascular Wellness Center, where patients can manage their heart health with online trackers closely monitored by physicians. And the Start Walking campaign promotes free online resources for nationwide walking clubs, healthier eating resources, and wellness in the work place.

Also, the AHA 2012 National Walking Day, April 4, encourages employees to bring sneakers to work, and take at least 30 minutes out of their day to get up and walk as a way to raise awareness of the importance of daily physical activity while motivating co-workers and giving them a friendly push towards a healthier lifestyle.

Over a delicious heart healthy lunch al fresco, Dr. Kurt N. Ransohoff presented honoree Lorraine Wilson with the AHA Community Leadership Award from Sansum Clinic for her invaluable commitment to the nonprofit sector and community.

Wilson for decades has served on boards and worked for various nonprofit agencies. Her contributions include the Mental Health Association of Los Angeles, as a writer and editor for a monthly newspaper, a public relations representative for Child Guidance Clinic and executive director for the Los Angeles County Chapter of the Diabetes Association for five years, before relocating to Santa Barbara in 1990. And, always the innovator for change, Wilson approached the Santa Barbara News-Press about creating a column focused on nonprofit charity events and the volunteers who raise money for these great causes.

As society editor for the News-Press, Wilson made her mark in the community with her Sunday column, “On the Town,” where for more than 20 years she’s attended and reported on as many as 200 nonprofit charity events annually, until she suffered a stroke last October.

“I’m honored to be the recipient of this award in part because community involvement is important. Therefore, it is lovely to accept this tribute for doing something I really love to do already,” Wilson said. “The Go Red for Women campaign and other fundraisers that go on all year long in Santa Barbra County are run by people and organizations who care a lot and who try to make this, together, a better place for us all to live in.”

Wilson warmly thanked her family members, nurses, personal physicians, Dr. Steve Kent and Dr. Rob White from Cottage Hospital, who sat in the audience, and she promised them that she is taking her blood pressure pills regularly now. She also declared that AHA research and innovations in cardiovascular science and medicine saved her life.

“I don’t know about the rest of you but I always knew in my head that I was in good shape because I ate well and stayed reasonably thin,” said Wilson. “I was able to run and walk quite a distance but I never was responsible about taking my pills and other things the doctors had prescribed to me. I do now, believe me I do.”

Following Wilson’s inspirational acceptance speech, the luncheon moved into high gear as long-limbed models took to the runway for a sizzling “summer inspired” fashion show featuring Lola Paige’s ready-to-wear beach collection. Local heart and stroke survivors followed the models, strutting down the runway clad in Lucky Brand and Macy’s fashions.

When the runway cooled, down guest speaker Kim Barnouin, 43, author of the “Skinny Bitch” book series (Running Press, $13.95), addressed the importance of healthy eating, and Nancy Pinner, mother of local heart survivor Laura Pinner, 22, shared a heart-wrenching story of her daughter’s affliction with heart disease from infancy.

Barnouin said bad eating habits, panic attacks and bouts of depression moved her to start researching organic foods, and she totally reconstructed her diet by documenting her eating habits in a food journal for two weeks in 2002. She eventually wrote her first novel — a New York Times best seller — “Skinny Bitch” in 2005.

Barnouin encouraged women to give up meat, soda and sugar, and to instead opt for fresh fruits, whole grain and vegetables if they want to look and feel fabulous.

At just 27 days old, Laura Pinner contracted a rare virus that settled into her heart. She developed congestive heart failure that grew progressively worse during adolescence.

“By the time Laura was in seventh grade, she could barely walk to the bathroom,” Pinner said tearfully as she stood beside her daughter on stage.

As her heart condition worsened in 2001, Pinner was placed on a waiting list for a heart transplant. But with the help of AHA scientific researchers, intensive treatment and diagnostic technicians, coupled with specialized medication, she was taken off the list six weeks later.

“At the time, my heart was barely pumping blood though my body, and that caused a condition that I still have today called dilated cardiomyopathy,” Pinner said. “Basically my heart is enlarged.”

Despite her condition, Pinner, under the guidance of physicians aligned with medication and specialized heart-strengthening procedures funded by AHA, continues to live a full life. Last June, she graduated from UCLA, summa cum laude, with a major in communications. Pinner has recently returned from Tanzania, Africa, on a three-month educational HIV and AID awareness campaign and said she is actively seeking employment in Santa Barbara.

“I want to help people in general,” Pinner said. “I survived for a reason, and now I want to give back in any way that I can.”

The AHA Central Division graciously thanked it sponsors:

» National sponsors: Macy’s and Merck

» Honoree sponsor: Sansum Clinic

» Cover Your Heart sponsor: Montecito Bank & Trust

» Corporate sponsors: Deckers Outdoor Corp., Cottage Health System, MarBorg Industries and The Towbes Group

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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