Red Day Brings Heart Health to Light


Last Thursday, Colgate students ditched their typical maroon and grey and sported a brand new color. February 4 marked Go Red for Women Day, sponsored by the Colgate University chapter of the American Heart Association. Students showed their support for the cause by dressing in red and participating in a brown bag discussion on heart disease in the center for Women’s Studies.

To help spread awareness and shed new light on the all too often overlooked topic of heart disease, guest speaker Melissa Mogensen captivated students with her personal story. Having survived a stroke, Morgensen was introduced as the chapter’s “red cap ambassador,” but she later addressed herself as an example of “what not to do” in a life threatening situation.

In July of 2004, when Mogensen was just 23, she suffered from a mini stroke that left her with symptoms such as lightheadedness, blurred vision and jumbled words. However, instead of acknowledging all of the palpable indications of her stroke, Mogensen stayed lying on the floor for several hours before she could stand and did not reach the emergency room for almost an entire day. The doctors believed Mogensen’s stroke had been caused by a combination of her birth control patch and migraine medicine, which she had only been using in conjunction for about three months.

While she now is able to talk about her stroke, even jokingly blaming it for her occasional forgetfulness and mistakes, it took Mogensen years before she was able to fully recognize how significant and terrifying her situation was. Five years later, Mogensen is an advocate for educating young people about heart disease and heart-related conditions.

“It’s not just your life but everybody’s life that gets disrupted,” Mogensen said of the aftermath of her health condition.

One of the most frightening aspects of Mogensen’s story was that it happened to her at such a young age. Furthermore, it has been shown that her incident, including her age, is becoming less rare.

After Mogensen’s talk was over, the floor was given to Associate Nurse Manager Linda Maynard and Associate Director of Student Health Services Steve Jackowski of the Colgate University Student Health Center. Addressing the growing number of cases of heart attack and stroke in America, Maynard and Jackowski led a discussion on the copious risk factors of these common and often fatal conditions. Of those mentioned, high blood pressure, smoking, use of birth control, high cholesterol and stress were found to be prominent causes of coronary problems that pertain specifically to Colgate students and especially Colgate women.

Furthermore, Jackowski revealed that the most common cause of high blood pressure is unknown and that “70% of women who smoke and take birth control will develop coronary heart disease.” Maynard added that while men typically show worse symptoms than women, men and women often have heart attacks of relatively equal strength. Among many other ways discussed to help lower the risk of heart disease, reducing fat intake, exercising regularly, carefully watching cholesterol and finding healthy ways to limit stress were addressed.

Although heart disease, heart attack and stroke may seem distant and remote to most college students, Go Red for Women represented an opportunity for Colgate to recognize how real and relevant the risk is.

Senior Carly Weil, who planned and helped to organize this year’s event, expressed her belief that it is “incredibly important to have events like this on campus to dispel these myths,” particularly, “that it’s a man’s or old person’s disease”.

Mogensen left Colgate with one final statement.

“Take the time and take care of your health,” Mogensen said.

While Go Red for Women was a one-day event, there are many more ways to get involved and spread awareness of heart disease, including America’s Greatest Heart Run & Walk on Saturday, March 6 at Utica College.