By Heidi Simmons

Tis the season to celebrate the heart — the quintessential symbol of love and affection.

For centuries, this country and many others have fondly embraced Valentine’s Day as a cherished cultural tradition where we joyfully take the opportunity to express our admiration, appreciation and affection to those we hold dear.

When it comes to the heart, the American Heart Association (AHA) sees something beyond Cupid, cards and candy.

Heart disease kills nearly 500,000 women each year, more than all the cancers combined, yet only 10 percent of women are paying attention to the fact that cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of women!

“The good news is that 80 percent of heart disease is preventable,” said Ellyse Lathrop, American Heart Association, Coachella Valley Division, Business Development Director. “Heart attacks and strokes are thought of as an issue mostly pertaining to middle-aged men. So it is important to reach Coachella Valley residents with ways to improve women’s health and help prevent heart disease and stroke.”

go-red-for-women“Go Red for Women” is a social initiative started by the AHA in 2004 designed to empower women to take charge of their health. During the entire month of February, local chapters across the country highlight issues pertaining to women’s heart health, often wearing red to show support.

For the first time, the local AHA chapter “Go Red for Women” will have a male chairperson. David Herrlinger, Vice President of Hot Purple Energy will take the reins following Cari Sudmeier, Nurse Practitioner for Women’s Health, Eisenhower Medical Center.

“As the incoming chairperson, I’m in a unique position to get guys to focus on the number one killer of women,” said Herrlinger. “We are asking men to talk to the women in their lives — mothers, sisters, daughters and wives about heart health. Of course, we’ll continue with the traditional focus of generating awareness, but men Going Red for Women is my new charge.”

AHA is the largest volunteer run organization in the nation. Herrlinger is in the process of selecting his committee.

“We are so excited to have David on board,” said Lathrop. “He’s a very well-liked and well-connected individual in our community. I think he will be able to energize our mission and spread awareness through his extensive Coachella Valley network.”

Local business Hot Purple Energy has sponsored the AHA fundraising event “National Wear Red Day” for the last three years.

Every February, HPE illuminates their office building in red and changes their purple “E” logos to red hearts. For years, the company has donated $250 to the local AHA, in the names of those providing solar referrals. During the year, they provide “Go Red For Women” health information at the many events they sponsor throughout the CV.

“Together with David Herrlinger and Hot Purple Energy we are trying to create an overall healthier Coachella Valley,” said Lathrop. “As a company, they are trying to create a sustainable environment as well as create and sustain good health and quality living in the CV. That’s why our partnership works really well.”

The AHA and HPE indeed intersect when it comes to building and communicating a healthy and sustainable environment.

“As men bring awareness to women’s heart issues, it should circle back,” said Herrlinger. “It’s often easier to ask someone else to take care of themselves before you focus on your own health. That happens a lot with women as well. Women usually care for others before themselves.”

Hot Purple Energy is currently sponsoring a $3,000 electric bike giveaway as part of their commitment to heart health awareness.

“Pose With a Rose and Make a Promise” is to inspire both men and women to commit to living a heart healthy life. The winner can choose either a man’s or woman’s Public brand electric assist bike.

To enter, take a picture of yourself with a rose and send it to heart@hotpurpleenrgy.com or upload the image to social media using #PoseWithARoseMakeAPromise. HPE will reply with an entry confirmation and tips on how to start your heart healthy lifestyle.

The winner will be announced at the Go Red for Women Annual Luncheon, Friday, February 17, at the Weston Mission Hills, 10:00 to 2:00. The event is a fundraiser with lunch, speakers and silent auction. The winner needn’t be present to win the bicycle.

Herrlinger’s goal is to see how many lives he can actually reach culminating in a celebration at the 2018 Go Red for Women Luncheon. He believes that with a sustained effort throughout the year in terms of personal attention to fitness, health and diet, it can become part of the community’s collective lifestyle mantra.

“The number one thing is to be active. But, it’s not always easy. Prevention takes effort. You can’t just take a pill and be done,” said Herrlinger. “My hope is to create a larger circle with more people talking and having more exciting ways to engage with people.

“I believe we will have a real and measureable impact. It’s a daily commitment you have to make. That’s why the outreach and awareness programs, seminars and email reminders are important. We are here, the American Heart Association is here, and we are all looking out for one another. Together, I believe we can diminish and lower the rate of heart disease and stroke.”

Herrlinger wants to hijack Valentine’s Day. “What it’s really about is the heart. So, if you love someone, talk about heart health.”

For more information about the Go Red for Women Luncheon go to cvgoredluncheon@heart.org. Tickets are available at the door or online. For heart health lifestyle tips and to see if you are at risk for cardiovascular disease check www.goredforwomen.org

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