Colgate Students Take Red Dress Day to Heart

Colgate Students Take Red Dress Day to Heart

Katherine DeVries

Heart disease is not usually the most pressing concern in most college students’ minds; however, last Friday’s Red Dress Day made it clear that heart disease can, and does, affect a small portion of young adults, and will almost certainly affect everyone in some respect later in life.

Red Dress Day is a nationwide heart-health awareness day sponsored by the American Heart Association (AHA). The event originated nationally in 2002 and came to the Colgate campus last year.

Red Dress Day’s primary goal was to recruit advocates to either wear red or display the Red Dress Day pin throughout the day as a means of expressing awareness of the cause. Red Dress Day is oriented primarily towards women due to the fact that, while heart disease is the most prominent killer of both men and women, women’s symptoms are much more subtle and tend to be reported later — leading to a higher probability of unforeseen health consequences.

Red Dress Day was sponsored by Colgate’s chapter of the American Heart Association. This group collaborated with the Women’s Studies department to organize the brown bag lunch that occurred on Friday afternoon. The discussion focused primarily on the misconceptions that people currently have about the frequency of heart disease in America, as well as the preventative measures young people can take to help reduce their risk. The four speakers included: Dr. Gerald Gacioch, cardiologist and head of the American Heart Association; John Salka, pulmonary/cardiac specialist; Colgate’s own Dr. Merrill Miller; and Swimming and Diving coach Matt Leone.

Dr. Gacioch presented many interesting statistics, jarring the audience with his statement that “according to current statistics, 50 percent of the people in this room will die of heart disease.”

John Salka did a heart monitor demonstration on Coach Leone, who passed with flying colors. Leone also told the story of the sudden onset of his own heart troubles and ensuing double bypass surgery.

Despite the positive student response to both Red Dress Day and the American Heart Association’s presence on campus, many people were still curious about why it was prudent that college-age students learn about an issue that primarily affects a much older portion of the population. One answer to this inquiry was presented by AHA co-Chair first-year Sarajane McMahon.

“I got involved [in AHA] because last January I had an emergency heart operation and I didn’t realize that could happen to people our age,” McMahon said.

Additionally, Dr. Gacioch continuously reiterated the point that heart disease is easily preventable, as long as a healthy lifestyle is mainained from a young age.

“Only one percent of the people with heart disease can blame genetics,” Gacioch said. He presented several measures — including healthy eating, not smoking and exercise — that people should start thinking about at a young age in order to fend off complications later in life.

Colgate’s AHA Chair Annemarie Papandrea was very pleased to note the immense success this year’s Red Dress Day achieved.

“The brown bag turnout was great and I’ve seen a lot more red in general around campus today,” she said.

The American Heart Association club is hoping this success will transfer to their next event, America’s Greatest Run/Walk, which will take place in Utica on March 3. This event is the largest run/walk for heart disease in the country and each year Colgate sends a team of students to raise money and enter in friendly competition with their fellow activists.