McGowan: ‘Go Red’ for Heart Health (Women and Men)

January 31, 2023

by Richard McGowan, Ph.D.

I can thank my wife that I am vertical. Her father died of a heart attack before he reached age 50; she knew heart disease ran in her family. Her doctor asked that she undergo several tests to ensure her heart health. During one of those visits, her doctor said it would be a good thing were I to do some of the diagnostic scans that she had undertaken.

Two months later, on Valentine’s Day no less, I had a triple bypass for arteries that were 90 percent, 75 percent, and 60 percent occluded. Had I not had a series of diagnostic tests, a heart attack was my fate.

I had little awareness of my precarious state. In fact, I’d bicycled over 3,000 miles by December, mostly on Indy’s Monon Trail and the rural roads of Westfield.

My experience was typical. As a 2020 article noted, “Prehospital delay is common among first-timer ACS  [acute coronary syndrome] patients from both sexes, and thus, increasing awareness about ACS among the public from all age groups is necessary.”

That observation is consistent with an article from 2008. Jensen and Moser stated, after reviewing literature on heart disease, “Overall, knowledge of heart disease, identification of risk factors for coronary artery disease, signs and symptoms of acute myocardial infarction (AMI) was poor for both men and women. The perception that women are less knowledgeable than men about heart disease was not consistent in the literature reviewed. In fact, in some studies, women were more knowledgeable than men in the identification of risk factors and less common symptoms of AMI.”

I could have been part of an unfortunate group. According to a Harvard Medical School report, “Throughout life, heart attacks are twice as common in men than women.” And heart attacks and other coronary diseases lead to mortality.

Indiana displays that pattern of mortality. According to, males 35 years and older died at a rate of 448/100,000 people while females were at 273/ 100,000 people. Heart disease is the leading cause of death nationally and in Indiana for both sexes.  National data show that men have a 1 in 4 chance of succumbing to heart disease and women have a 1 in 5 chance. Or, men are 20 percent more at risk of death from heart disease, would that men have that awareness.

Women are more likely to have the awareness of heart disease because of the American Heart Association. That organization sponsors a ‘Go Red for Women Day’ each year. Type “Go Red for Men” into the google search engine and sites for ‘Go Red for Women’ appear. This year, the ‘Go Red for Women’ day in Indianapolis is Feb. 17, for Fort Wayne it is May 12, and for Michiana March 3. It is good that women become more aware of heart disease; “Why? Because losing even one woman to cardiovascular disease is too many,” as the “Go Red for Woman” website states. I agree.

I also agree that losing one man to cardiovascular disease is too many.

If the American Heart Association were serious about reducing or ending heart disease, it would simply say “Go Red for Heart Health” and not ignore the sex that is more likely to suffer heart disease and heart disease death.

It would be better for everyone were the campaign inclusive and not neglect the sex most at risk.

Richard McGowan, Ph.D., an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, has taught philosophy and ethics cores for more than 40 years, most recently at Butler University. 


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